Category Archives: History


BLOG 452
November 25, 2019

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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.


Time is running out.

The current quagmire in Israel is rumbling toward a third election.

The two main sticking points in efforts to reach a unity government have been the right-wing bloc, which Netanyahu has refused to part with, and Blue and White’s refusal to serve under a prime minister facing criminal charges. This week an unexpected indictment against Netanyahu exploded and the pieces are still coming down. For well over a year, I have been writing about this possibility and predicting such was coming.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit leveled and filed three charges of corruption against Netanyahu, putting him under criminal indictment.

Will the Israel public vote for a Prime Minister under criminal indictment? That just maybe the jackpot question. Quite possibly the impasse between Netanyahu and Gantz may have pushed patience too far and the charges were filled to dynamite the log jam. We will see.

Officials in Yisrael Beytenu, whose party is the deciding factor on whether Netanyahu or Gantz will be able to form a government without the other, told The Times of Israel that leader Avigdor Liberman would announce his decision on whether to support either Gantz or Netanyahu, or neither, this week. In his statement Gantz, who had 24 hours left until his deadline to form a governing coalition, said he would “continue to make every effort and turn every stone to try to reach understandings and form a government even in the remaining time, in order to prevent costly and unnecessary elections that are contrary to the will of the citizens of Israel.”

And then President Donald Trump dropped the bombshell! In an effort to support and shore up Netanyahu, he proclaimed West Bank settlements by Israel are not illegal. Needless to say this arbitrary action was rejected on many fronts. The principal Democratic presidential candidates denounced the decision. The European Union rejected the idea and said such a move would be an obstacle to peace. Russia and Turkey both weighted in and rejected the USA position.

Will Trump’s move mean anything? Not if the Israeli public rejects the idea of electing a Prime Minister under criminal indictment. Stay tuned. There’s more to come!

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, Gaza, History, The Middle East


BLOG 449
October 28, 2019



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.



If you’re not following what’s happened to the Kurds since President Trump arbitrarily pulled American troops and influence out of Syria, you should be. The Turks have been killing the Kurds in the same manner that ISIS did earlier. The slaughter of a once American Ally while the USA stands on the sidelines and watches will go down in history as not only one of the greatest blunders of recent years, but a betrayer of people who once thought we were their friends. Who would want to be an Ally of America when such arbitrary actions mean that our relationships mean nothing?

(Refer to last week’s blog for a listing of the objectives of Russia.) From the point of view of the Middle East, Trump’s actions have handed Putin his first three major objectives on a silver platter. Putin is now the king maker and controls Syria. America is out.

Who are the Kurds? Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. Currently, they are struggling to exist.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening announced he had failed to muster a coalition after almost four weeks of effort, and therefore returned the mandate to form a government to President Reuven Rivlin. Netanyahu’s 28-day deadline for building a government was due to expire on Wednesday.

Rivlin is now expected, probably on Tuesday morning, to charge Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz with the task of mustering a coalition that can win a Knesset majority. Blue and White said it was determined to build the “liberal unity government, led by Benny Gantz, that the people of Israel voted for.”

Gantz now has 28 days to try and do what Netanyahu could not accomplish. If he fails, any MK will have 21 days to obtain the support of a Knesset majority to form a government. If no one succeeds, elections will be initiated automatically — a third round inside a year after April’s and September’s inconclusive votes.

Like a predictable politician, Netanyahu blamed Gantz for his failure. The truth is that the criminal charges hanging over Netanyahu’s head have sunk his attempts to unite with other political groups needed to form the government.

Keep your eyes open for Story Three — yet to come.

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, History, Israel, Kurds


BLOG 446
September 30, 2019



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.

Part 2

Because the impending Trump Impeachment Inquiry grabbed the headlines, the story in Israel hasn’t even been reported in the national media. Even though it hasn’t been a headline grabber, the situation remains fascinating … and highly muddled.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday proposed a unity government in which power would be equally divided. Likud’s Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz would each serve two years as prime minister. Netanyahu would take an open-ended leave of absence if and when he is indicted in three criminal probes. Under the arrangement Gantz, as “interim prime minister,” would enjoy all prime ministerial authority.

Why not? The two candidates virtually tied in the election. Gantz won 33 seats and Netanyahu’s Likud’s took 32 seats. Neither side had a clear path to a majority coalition. One of the problems in the election was Netanyahu’s forming a government including right-wing and Orthodox religious parties. The public clearly wants the religious groups out of the government. However, Netanyahu knows he can’t function without their support.

Negotiating teams for Likud and Blue and White groups met Friday morning for ongoing talks over a potential unity government between the two parties, but made little headway, with each side appearing chiefly concerned with avoiding any blame for a collapse of negotiations.

For its part, Blue and White said in a statement that it was concerned with “principles and values” as “the foundation of any negotiation” while Likud was chiefly concerned with Netanyahu remaining prime minister. Observers said it was clear Likud’s stance was aimed at dragging the State of Israel into a third round of elections, and that lined up with the interests of the prime minister. Despite the tense mood, the sides agreed to meet again on Sunday morning.

President Rivling stressed Wednesday that Israelis do not want a third round of elections, saying “the public will pay the price” of a failure by Netanyahu and Gantz to find common ground. However, observers currently believe Netanyahu may be stalling, ready to force another election. Why? Only by being able to control the Knesset does Netanyahu have any chance of avoiding facing serious legal charges. He’s not going to throw in the towel easily.

The fact that Netanyahu can’t form a government or win the election is viewed within Israel as somewhat of a rejection of President Trump. Netanyahu had vigorously campaigned with pictures of himself standing with Trump but this didn’t work to win the election.

What’s next? Who knows! Sure beats most of what’s on television.

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 History, Israel, The Middle East, Trump


Blog 400 July 2, 2018

By Photograph by D Ramey Logan, CC BY 4.0,

On the base of the Statue of Liberty are engraved these words:

Give me your tired, your poor,

your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

We do well to remember that we are all immigrants. Some recent, some long ago, but we all came from some other land to this country. Some of our ancestors came through Ellis Island, as well as other ports of entry, but they were the homeless and the tired. Struggling to escape poverty and the pogroms of Europe, our fathers and mothers landed on this shore seeking to walk through the golden door.

In this time of struggle and debate over immigration , let us remember this country was built and sustained by “the least of these” as well as the best. Let us never  forget the world still looks to America to find for the golden door.

They all want in. No one wants out. I hope you have a blessed and safe July 4th holiday.

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Filed under America, History, middle east, Refugee camps

Memorial Day

Sorry, Friends. I’m out of pocket. My daughter is graduating with her doctorate degree from the University of California and I have to be there. The following week, Margueritte and I will be traveling, but I’ll be back with you on June 4, 2018.

Memorial Day weekend is a sobering time as we remember and honor those who have fallen in defending this country. In our families, we make our own private journeys to the graves of those we loved and lost. Bless you in such moments of remembrance.

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Filed under America, History, Travels


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.


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

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


BLOG 370 November 6, 2017

I confess. Last weekend we were in California, taking our great-grandchildren (and children) Trick or Treating. For years, I took the three grandchildren up and down the streets of Modesto, knocking on doors and threatening the worse if they didn’t produce candy. Actually, the experience remains one of the highlights of my year.

But here’s an unexpected surprise for you. We are taking a light-hearted retreat from the usual heavy Middle-Eastern news.  This year in Israel Halloween is out; Commemorating the Battle of Beersheba is in. Bet you’ve never heard of this event that occurred in 1917 on October 31.

The Battle of Beersheba was the first major victory for Britain in World War I and ultimately laid the groundwork for what in time would become the Balfour Declaration that renewed the hope of the Jewish people to become a nation after 2,000 years in exile.

Before the battle, the British had been defeated four times by the Turkish army. Their failure in the Dardanelles led to the resignation of Winston Churchill as the First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill’s push for a naval invasion in Gallipoli led to 400,000 casualties on both sides and an ignominious Allied defeat. At the battle of Kut in Iraq, the British were again defeated and surrendered to the Turks. They were again badly beaten twice  fighting for Gaza.

The defeats led to a new command under General Edmund Allenby, a no-nonsense giant of a man called “The Bull.” Another  swashbuckling military office appeared to ride his horse close to the Turks, was fired upon, fell forward, dropped a shoulder back covered with blood, and rode off appearing to be hit. All part of plan to deceive the Turks, making them think an attack on Beersheba was only a ploy. In reality, the small city was the real objective. The Australian 4th and the 12th Light Horse Brigades mounted a frontal charge against the Turk’s double-lined defensive trench light of defense and rushed forward.

The horses charged over the trenches and the soldiers fought the Turks in hand-to-hand combats, meeting bullets with bayonets. The enormous courage of the Allied soldiers  defeated the Turks, took Beersheba, led to the liberation of Palestine, and eventually the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Although happening a hundred years ago, the battle remains an important event for what was to become Israel.

Israelites might well dress in military customs and knock on doors, saying, “Candy or the Battle of Beersheba on your doorstep!”

The great cavalry advance was the last horse and rider charge in military history.

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Filed under halloween, History, Israel, middle east


BLOG 367 October 2, 2917

            Hey! Before we go any further, there will no blog next week because I will be traveling. Sorry, but I’ll be out of pocket. HOWEVER, get ready for a new website that is currently unfolding. An Episcopal Priest Fr. Michael O’Donnell and I have been creating an exciting journey following the development of the Church of the first five centuries. Called EARLY FAITH FOR TODAY, Fr. Michael and I are exploring how the original church developed and laid the foundations for what exists today. You will be surprised and intrigued by how the church began. Stay tuned. The details will be forthcoming.

Ever hear of the “Angel of Death?” The notorious Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele received that title because he stood on the platform in the Auschwitz death camp deciding with a flip of the finger who would go directly to the gas chambers and who would live for a while longer. In addition, Mengele carried out horrible genetic experiments on prisoners in the Auschwitz chamber of horrors. After Israel became a nation, Mengele was one of the most sought after Nazi war criminals that the Mossad (Israeli secret service) sought. He had obtained documents through the Red Cross and fled to South America. The released Mossad file claims the Red Cross knew he was a Nazi war criminal.

But why was Josef Mengele never caught?

The New York Times and The Jerusalem Post both recently released stories on Israel’s search for Mengele and why he was never apprehended. Contrary to popular opinion, most of the time Mossad wasn’t looking for Mengele at all. Movies and books like The Boy From Brazil promoted fables about Hitler and glorified the chase to either catch or kill the evil doctor. However, it turns out this was all fiction.

In 1960, Simon Wiesenthal, the celebrated Nazi hunter, tipped off Mossad that Mengele was living near Sao Paulo, Brazil. On July 26,1962, a Mossad operative saw a man fitting Mengele’s description standing near a Pharmacy run by one of his friends. Mossad was notified, but the same day the agency discovered Egypt was recruiting German scientists to build missiles. The matter was dropped.

At that time, Mossad was only in the developmental stage and they had a limited number of agents and a tight budget. The Egyptian situation was immediate and highly threatening. Next came the need to gather data on what would become the Seven-Day War. Mengele stayed on the back burner. A decade passed and Menachem Begin came to power with a greater interest in catching the doctor and believed settling the score with Mengele would demonstrate the price to be paid for hurting Jews. Mossad brought the matter to the front burner.

Unfortunately for Mossad, in 1979  Josef Mengele died while swimming off  a Brazilian beach. Because he had a rich family who always knew where he was, Mengele had survived longer than he should have. However, the moral of the story remains. Mengele’s life was spent running, hiding under a rock, and finally drowning.  Sounds like a decent  revenge to me.

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Filed under History, Israel, middle east


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


BLOG 357 July 17, 2017

            Taking a breather from the turmoil of politics and war in the Middle East, a little side trip through the archaeological discoveries of recent days can prove interesting. Interest in archaeology was piqued many years ago with the discovery of the Qumran Dead Sea Scroll. Decades ago, I met Khalil Eskander Shahin, called Kando, the middle man, in the sale of this find at a shop he ran in what is today East Jerusalem. One of the clay jars was on display in his souvenir shop. I vividly remember standing in awe, staring at this clay vessel that went back beyond 2,000 years, and housing the priceless finds once hidden inside this container.

Archaeological finds put us in touch with the past like little else. They bring the stories of history books to life. We wonder what famous person from the past must have touched the same object we are looking at.

Here’s several recent finds you will find significant.

Reaching w-a-a-y back in time, Israeli researchers have just discovered that the land was inhabited by Neanderthals over 60,000 years ago. Contrary to previous opinion, they did not live in caves and weren’t really cavemen at all. Not that some did not live in caves, but the conclusion is now considered an overstatement because they lived in the open fields around what is today the Ein-Qashsish area on the bands of the Kishon River in northern Israel. The remains of a Neanderthal from between 15 to 22 years of age revealed he suffered an injury that caused limping.

On another trail, researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered a ground-breaking discovery  on the back of a pottery shard that dates back to 600 BCE, the eve of the Kingdom of Judah’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. The inscription begins with a blessing by Yahweh and then discusses money transfers. The original vessel came from a military outpost and fortress at the Southern border of the ancient Kingdom of Judah probably populated by 20 to 30 soldiers. The use of contemporary multi-spectral imaging techniques has opened to new fields of discovery. More insights will be forthcoming.

From a different front, on the eve of the jubilee commemoration of the Six Day War, (see Blog 356), the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled relics from the battle for Jerusalem on the eve of the Second Temple destruction 2,000 years ago. Stone ballista balls and well-preserved arrowheads had been uncovered. These finds came from the last battle between the Romans and the Jewish rebels. The final showdown was recorded by historian Flavius Josephus. These artifacts and additional discoveries came from what was once a main street in the Second Temple period and will provide new information and insights on how the Old City was structured.

Another discovery in a cave on the cliff west of Qumran has revealed additional pottery shards, fragments of rope, and olive and date pits, but no more biblical scrolls were found. However, an ancient scroll was uncovered, but it had nothing on it and the parchment was completely blank. The empty scroll currently remains a mystery and puzzle to be solved. Surely, more will be discovered.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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July 17, 2017 · 9:37 am