Category Archives: Introductions



            The results of elections appears to be universal. Candidates kiss babies, grin, wave, and promise everything from taking care of your old age to rejuvenating the country, And what happens? The week after the elcction when the dancing in the streets is done, the politicans get down to business and it’s nothing like they promised.

Today, the politicians in Egypt are getting down to business. The dust is clearing and the squeeze is on. What does it mean? Well, there’s good news and bad news.

Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsi fired the military’s chief of staff and just threw out one of the major provisions that the military imposed on the government. Will Morsi’s actions stick? Hard to say. The military will probably wait and see what comes next.  Morsi has definitely taken a major step forward in asserting the power of his office and propelling himself into an authoriative position over the military. How long he can prevail is a “wait and see” proposition. After it’s said and done, the military has the bullets and are well positioned to resist.

On the other hand, the most radical ideals of the Moslem Brotherhood don’t seem to be materializing. As is generally true of politicans, Mohamed Morsi has come face-to-face with political realities and that produces compromise. Morsi has made some of his own adjustments that involve backing away from some of his campaign promises. On of these compromises appears to be dropping the idea of changing the peace treaty with Israel. Such an adaptation takes a step toward a more peaceful Middle East.

In addition, recent visits by Secretary Hillary Clinton and Defense Secrerary Leon Penetta seem to be paying off in an unexpected way. In a recent blog, I noted Clinton got a nasty reception from Cairo demonstrators. However, she did come down on the side of constitutional government which put her on Morsi’s side in that struggle. During the visit, she warned of security issues in the Sinai and offered American help. Subsequently, terrorist gunmen in the Sinai attacked Egyptian border posts and comandeered two military vehicles used to storm the Israeli border. The unanticipated attacks deeply shook Morsi’s government. Morsi’s response is now viewed as an important test of the nascent presidency.

Indicating a renewned confidence in the United States, Egypt has now accelerated talks about American assistance in protecting the Sinai, including acquiring military equipment with electronic and aerial surveilance as well as police training. The American State Department warned that the Sinai is being used as a base for smuggling arms into Gaza for Palestinian extremists. Moreover, the USA has 700 American soliders in the Sinai as part of an international peacekeeping force in the area. Secretary Clinton expressed concern about the welfare of these American troops. While Egypt has always been sensitive about American direct involvment in its security, they do receive $1.5 billion dollars a year in assistance.

Egyptian troops, light tanks, attack helicopters are now pouring into the Sinai desert to root out the increasingly agressive Islamic militants. Egypt’s military action reflects a key provision of the l979 peace treaty which promised the demilitarization of the Sinai peninsula. Egypt’s push to secure the border is an important step indicating a continuing alliance with both America and Israel.

Morsi’s govenment’s actions seems to indicate the train may be back on the track in terms


of American and Israeli relationships. The next question is where the train is actually going.


Question: Is it possible for Egypt to come out of the current struggle in better shape than was previously thought?

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    “And why did you write that story?”
     Authors hear the question everyday. What’s hidden within the folds of the story? What secrets created the tale I’m telling. When the book is non-fiction,
the riddle may even be more intriguing. During the decades that I wrote my 32 published books, these are the back pages behind the headline episodes.
Here are the fascinating scenes behind the big picture!




            The Assassins features three Russian killers: Alex Orlov, Sergei Lapin, and Nikolai Markov. The books notes a “remarkable sameness” in these men because I attempted to pattern them after Russians I met in different capacities during my travels in the Soviet Union. I saw pudgy-cheeked men, fattened from eating too much pastry and a consumption of vodka and cognac that to this day remains legendary. Often, one sees eyebrows that remind an observer of Leonid Brezhnev. Plum cheeks squeezing the eyes are in every public setting.

Why so similar and predicable?

Because that’s the way Russian society looks. Too much lard and grease in the diet.

As I traveled from Moscow to Minsk and on to St. Petersburg, I found the travel guides tried to impress me on how affluent their society really was. However, once you strolled down the main street of any city and then turned down a side street, you immediately realized that there weren’t any curbing on the streets. A visit to Kum’s Department store near the Kremlin revealed not a plush mall, but stalls boxed together like a flea market. During the Stalinist era, all resources went into armaments and the rest of the society dangled on the end of a thin thread. The Russian heritage had been to create illusions that were nothing more than cardboard and plywood store fronts with nothing behind them.

I wanted these assassins to fit the scenery that exists behind the illusions. Some years ago Gorbachev was briefly deposed by men in the Kremlin who appeared on television wearing the same gray suits, sitting together discussing why Gorbachev had to go. I think that particular coupe last three days, but during that time we got to see plenty of the “grayness” of official Soviet bureaucracy. My three assassins reflect the same bland, meaninglessness of the Soviet system.

Someone might protest that these three killers seem flat, colorness, and animalistic. Correct. Americans have become adjusted to exciting villians in the movies. We get everything from the Joker to Hannibal Lecter. We’ve come to expect exciting and challenging “bad guys.”

Even Vito Corleone and his sons became the anti-heros who were better than the other criminals so we ended up cheering for the Corlione family. Are genuine real-life criminals like this?


For some time I worked as a counselor in a 3,000 prisoner institution. At the end of the day, I’d generally went home depressed. The vast majority of the prisioners were not very bright and many were borderline normal. Their crimes were stupid and their behavior often ridiculous.  Once they were released, many quickly returned for crimes ranging from shop lifting to holding up a small grocery store with a toy pistol. Coming from broken and deprived homes, their behavior tended to be predictable, meaningless, and often frighteningly destructive.

I wanted the assassins in my story to reflect the real world. Killers of this sort are definitely sociopathic and probably on the psychopathic side. That means they don’t feel the pain they inflict on others. Murderers are self-preoccupied and indifferent to the chaos they impose on other.

Only Masha Khaykina in the story was different. In her struggle to survive, she remained in touch with human values.

I hope my explanation  makes the character a tad more real for you.

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Middle East Update

Having just returned from Israel, I bring responses from the local scene. Landing in Tel Aviv immediately tells one that Israel is on the move. When I first came to Israel in l968, it was an entirely different country. One had to drive some distance to get to Tel Aviv. Not anymore! The city is a thriving metropolis that now virtually abuts the airport with skyscrapers shooting up into the sky! Israel is going forward.
However, concern remains.
Israel has never made claims against Iran. Nevertheless, the president of Iran continues to threaten the annihilation of Israel. The tension is like having your next door neighbor sitting on his roof with a machine gun aimed at your backyard. Here’s the problem.
United Nations atomic inspectors have indicated Iran now possesses enough enriched uranium to make four atom bombs. They have discovered that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has a loophole Iran is pushing. The treaty sets no limits on the level of enrichment purity. It only bars nations from converting civilian efforts into military use. Iran claims they are doing nothing barred by treaty obligations. A nuclear physicist with the Federation of American Scientists recently said, “Iran is raising eyebrows. But what it’s doing is a concern –not illegal.”
Try explaining that over coffee to an Israeli! They won’t buy the story!
Israelis know about the reality of life inside Iran.
Because of Western sanctions, factories are beginning to be forced to close or reduce production. Prodigious economic pain is generating discontent. Prices are high and manufacturing difficult. One producer of thread and textiles recently admitted that sanctions have aggravated pre-existing economic difficulties. In the June 17, 2012 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff reported his findings after making a 1,700 mile trip through Iran. He discovered that the backlash of sanctions has produced anger with Iran’s leadership. Local citizens blame their own officials for the local problems. The average Iranian is far more focused on loss of work and income than they are on the fading hopes raised by the nuclear program.

As recent demonstrations revealed, Iran has a serious split in its own society. Many, many of the younger citizens are not buying what the Ayatollahs are selling. Their interest lies in a healthy open society rather than an imposed Moslem state. In this sense, sanctions appear to be working. This success raises questions about a military strike from Israel. Israeli’s understand this issue.

Talking with Israeli leaders revealed the heartfelt hope that sanctions will end the crisis and the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) will not have to strike. No one wants military actions if it can be avoided. On the other hand, they live with the motto “Never Again.” I found no hesitancy to strike if it becomes necessary.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Benn Gantz offered strong reasons why Israel must be ready to strike immediately if necessary. He indicated that they are “super-ready” to strike if there is no progress in the current nuclear discussions with Iran. Gantz maintains total confidence in the air force and intelligence.

Of course, Iran has to be aware of Gantz’s remarks and that too poses an additional pressure on their position.

The bottom line? I found an expectation that confrontations are ahead. Let’s hope Iran realizes they are the ones hanging in the balance.

How long can Israel afford to wait?
Should America increase the economic pressure on Iran to provide a faster answer?

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Meir Dagan remains a robust, bald-headed man with squinting eyes that peer out of narrow glasses. Ariel Sharon once said that Dagan’s specialty was severing an Arab’s head form his body. Dagan no longer comments on such epitaphs and turns his attention elsewhere. During his unprecedented eight-year term, he restored the agency’s prestige. Many of his efforts have proven highly significant including the assassination of Imad Moughniyet, Hevbollah’s notorious chief of operations, and the strike that stopped Syrian’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

And his hobbies? Dagan paints. Horses. Olive trees. An old man with his worry beads. Oil painting is his hobby. A man of contrasts, indeed!

Some years ago, I met and shook hands with Menahem Begin when he was Prime Minister. The moment felt electric, and I knew I was talking to a man who had the broadest possible grip on the pressing issues of state. Meir Dagan is of such a caliber.

In an recent interview in The Jerusalem Post, Dagan talked about his views developed from years in the military and working as the head of Israel’s finest espionage agency. Anymore interested in the Middle East will do well to consider his point of view. Meir Dagan loves his country and respects the struggle Israelis are facing. His perspective is worth considering.

In contrast to the current Prime Minister as well as the Minister of Defense, Meir Dagan is not for bombing Iran immediately . His opinions cover a wide range of possibiities. Here’s some what he thinks:
• Military action cannot disarm the core factor in Iranians nuclear quest. That factor is knowledge.
• Israel’s air force can make a significant strike, but the issue is the outcome of such an attack. It could produce an uprising of terrible proportions.
• Iran is not an Israeli problem. (Although their prime target would be Israel). Iran is an international problem that should be faced by the international community.
• The Iranian government is in a difficult position. Sanction are hurting and a new generation will not likely tolerate repressed civil rights that now exist. Time isn’t on their side.

Meir Dagan trusts the President of the United States to stand behind his pledge to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He maintains Israel should remain confident in that promise. Dagan is not saying that a military option should be taken off the table, but he is firmly maintaining that it should be the last option used.

Obviously, many citizens and soldiers within Israel would disagree with Dagan’s conclusions, but they would also highly respect them. Rather that opposing the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Dagan is offering an alternative point of view with much to consider. He is promoting further debate and discussion. No one could ever doubt the fearlessness and courage of this warrior with a powerful history behind him. Dagan is challenging Israel (and us) to seek a better solution than bombs. His ideas are worthy of a second look.

Question: Does Meir Dagan’s argument give you any second thoughts?

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I grew up hearing about the evils of fluoride in the water to prevent cavities and the United Nations as a Communist plot. The Joe McCarty faction propagated the idea there was a Communist hiding under every bed and you better watch out or Joe Stalin would grab you in the middle of the night. Fortunately, those days are gone with the wind.
Consequently, saying anything negative about the U.N. always seemed to come from the fanatic fringe of society. Therefore, it’s with reluctance that I bring up a subject that troubles many citizens in Israel. Nevertheless, the average Israeli is not only leery, but hostile about anything good coming out of the U.N. for their country.
Why the antagonism?
Let’s take a second look at recent events. On October 31, 2012, “Palestine” was voted into the UNESCO as the organization’s 195th member. A huge cheer erupted in the General Assembly room of the Paris-based UN educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Israel voted against it. China, Russia, and Brazil voted yes. Britain could only abstain.
Israel saw the vote as another lamentable example of the moral bankruptcy of the world organization. In a rush to support the Palestinians, the UN disregarded it own declared standards based on equality and mutual respect. The world organization (UNESCO) had clearly swung its weight behind Palestine in their struggle with Israel when the issues were only still in the discussion stage. Why would they do such at thing?
For years the radical extremist wing of Islam has worked to criminalize Israel. Distorting reality and the facts, they have attempted to paint Israeli attempts at self-protection as aggression. In Jimmy Carter’s failed book claiming Israel’s wall of protection was apartheid, he echoed the same line. The point is that many of the United Nations general assembly members have swallowed this same propaganda. Those member nations push this viewpoint in UN debates and oppose Israel on similar prejudicial grounds.
Some years ago, I was invited to deliver a lecture at the University of Amman in Amman, Jordan. I attempted to present an objective view of the history of the development of the nation of Israel and how prior conflict had developed. Some of the students became so angry they avoided the class and some completely dropped out of the course. There was some discussion about my safety. (And Jordan is a more balanced Arab state than most). It remains difficult to get a fair hearing.
Textbooks used in Palestinian Authority schools convey rabid anti-Semitic messages. An eighth-grade text book says: “Today the Muslim countries need urgently jidah and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant.” By receiving “Palestine” as a member, UNESCO has put its stamp of approval on this sort of vicious going on in the West Bank areas.
The affect of these actions? Chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians becomes even slimmer. The world expects better from the UN. A vote for bigotry, hatred, and conflict won’t get the world to a better place.

Queston: Can we ever expect balance in the UN? If not, what is the future of the organization?

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All the signs of Halloween.

All the signs of Halloween are out.

Pumpkins, cobwebs, scary window decorations everywhere.  Fake spiderwebs are in the trees, draped over front doors.  Costumes are in every store, even the grocery store.

It’s become a major American event. But what does this holiday reflect? I believe it demonstrates our fear of the unknown. We created creatures of horror from the grave that only reflect our apprehension.

There is hope.  We do not have to fear the unknown, the Christian message has a contrary message. The sting has been removed from death. We not longer have to be afraid. Leave all those fears in the ground where they belong, rejoice.

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Love doesn’t die at the edge of a grace.

In Mexico they celebrate Las Dia de los Mueratos, the Day of the Death. The customs look strange to us but it reminds me of the story of the man placing flowers in a cemetery.  He noticed a Chinese man putting rice on a grave. He yelled, “When do you expect your dead ancestor to come up and eat the rice?” The man answered, “About the same time, yours comes up to smell the flowers.”
    I am reminded that the deceased remain precious to us. We honor them in many ways, but they all mean the same thing. Love doesn’t die at the edge of a grace.

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With the observance of 9-11 behind us, I can’t stop thinking about the number of people who died in the tragedy. At the same time, I am reminded of the Moslem world in the Middle East who rejoiced in the deaths of all of those innocent people. In that part of the world, they value existence in difference terms. It is a sharp contrast in recognizing the value of human life. One of the reminders we receive from “near-death” experiences is that every life is of supreme worth.

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an introduction

As I’m starting this blog to share my writing and life with my friends and readers, I thought a short introduction would be a useful beginning. Adopted into a Gentile family as a child, my original family background was Jewish. Recovering these ethnic origins later in life, I lived both in the church and the synagogue, exploring both worlds. The experiences between both traditions and the research that went into discovering my ethnic roots imparted a vivid view of the WWII death camp trials that destroyed Jewish people. I traveled to many of these camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau where my uncle was imprisoned. Time spent in these areas was invaluable and led, as well, to learning about the current underground groups attempting to reconstitute Nazism.

Attempting to supplement my understanding of the forces that impinged on the history of Israel, I traveled extensively in Greece and across the Italian peninsula, eventually exploring the entire country of Greece a total of six times. Touching on Turkey, my last northern trip extended from Komotini down the plains to Thessaloniki, where I spent time in the ruins of the ancient cities of Philippi, Apollonia, Veria, and traveled down to Delphi and ancient Corinth. In Philippi, I had the opportunity to explore the traditional site of the prison where St. Paul and other Apostolic Christians were held. I had the opportunity to spend several weeks working only in Athens.

During further travels across the entire length of Italy, I found myself curious as to how Rome evolved into the contemporary world. From Milan to Venice and on to Ravenna, I explored both the present and ancient worlds. Eventually I made fifteen different trips to Rome. Studying in the Vatican library and the museum, my research touched on many aspects of the past, including information on what actually happened to the sacred objects in the last Temple after the Romans burned and destroyed Jerusalem.

These explorations into the ancient past have inspired much of my writing. I enjoy writing about history, particularly that which has been shrouded in mystery over hundreds of years. The ancient world had a strong belief in the afterlife and this has also influenced my writing–places such as the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione which displays the bones of more than 4,000 monks. “What you are today, we were yesterday”–as written in the church–urges us to contemplate more than just the here and now but the future and life beyond. Writing is a chance to tell stories about ourselves, our histories, and to explore the unknown.

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