Category Archives: Israel

ELECTIONS IN ISRAEL Part 2

BLOG 421 February 12, 2019

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.

Let’s take a further look beyond where we were last week. The coming Israeli elections on April 9 are the hot topic of the day. I will be leaving this week for Israel and will come back with an even closer look at the situation. All of which also means that I won’t be doing another blog until March 3.

The question that is becoming the pressing issue is how Prime Minister Netanyahu will endure in the battle for the office he now occupies. The current thinking is that Netanyahu will win barring a major upset. Likud (his party) already holds a substantial lead in the Knesset. As reported last week the unknown entity is whether Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will quickly press charges of corruption against Netanyahu. This dark cloud hangs over Netanyahu’s campaign.

Always heated, Israeli elections have fierce backroom negotiations between the many parties in the country. A major bombshell exploded when Avi Gabbay terminated his partnership with Tzipi Lvini (a former Mossad operative) that killed the Zionist Union party. Livini is now frantically searching for a new alliance. Gabbay’s vindictive treatment of the woman made him look mean and Livini deserving of sympathy. We will see how that goes.

A highly interesting new candidate is retired general Benny Gatz. Looking like a movie star, Gatz is well-known and liked throughout the country. A centrist, Gatz has yet to clarify his exact political position. Some supporters caution him to remain vague, but the anti-Netanyahu element wants him to purpose a center-left position they believe will take the day.

As you may know, Israel has more political parties than Carter has liver pills. New ones are being invented for this election. The Jewish Home party collapsed and came back as the New Right. Gatz’s group invented the Israel Resilience party. Of course, there’s always the religious Zionists and Orthodox Jews groups.

How does all of this play out? Actually, all of these groups will split the vote and that could make the Likud party come out on top with Netanyahu winning.  The proliferation of parties provides power for the Prime Minister. Of course, it is far too early in the game for any sane predictions how the next 60 days will play out, but it’s going to be interesting to watch.

See ya’ when I get back from Jerusalem.

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ELECTIONS IN ISRAEL

BLOG 420 February 4, 2019

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.

If you haven’t already heard,  Israel will hold a general election with the office of the Prime Minister up for grabs on April 9. Israeli politics can be a fascinating rough and tumble affair. So, what’s going on?

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset and called for elections, some commentators speculated that security issues prompted the call for a vote. After a couple of weeks of behind the scenes investigation, the picture became clearer. The call for an election had nothing to do with security. In fact, Israel remains well secured at this moment. The better commentary on the inside story came from journalist Yaakoy Katz writing for The Jerusalem Post.

Katz reported that State Prosecutor Shai Kitzan said at the Global Business Conference that work had been completed on indictments to be brought against Netanyahu in the immediate future. Charges of corruption were sent from the police some time ago and only await the response of the Attorney General to proceed with the case. By calling for an immediate election, Netanyahu would hope to put the squeeze on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to hold off prosecution.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political future hangs in the balance. Actually, he remains in the public’s eye one of the most popular politicians ever. Whether the voters will be swayed one way or the other by these charges is unclear. Either way one views the evidence, Netanyahu is throwing the dice in this election.

Some high-ranking politicians view this election as one of the most important moments in recent history. Former prime minister Ehud Barak said that he considered this situation to be “the most important election since the assassination of Yitzhat Rabin.”

You can bet there will be plenty of political jockeying between now and April 9. In another week, I’ll be going to Israel and talking with people on the street as well as leaders. I’ll bring you a report back on how much fire is under that smoke.

Stay tuned.

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BETRAYAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST? Part III

BLOG 419 January 28, 2019

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 I began with the statement. “Let’s face the facts. The enemy is Assad and the threat is Iran and Russia.  ISIS remains fighting and is not defeated.  In the following week there has been a flurry of activity supporting that reality.

Because of President Donald Trump’s arbitrary statement that the US was pulling out of Syria, frightening repercussions have followed. The Jerusalem Report magazine reported Trump saying he was giving a Christmas present to US troops. Reporter Yossi Melman said, “His decision is, in fact, a Christmas gift to US enemies and rivals, above all Russia and Iran, and indirectly China, and a bombshell dropped on Israel and the Sunni Arab world.”

Apparently, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

In the area of southern Syria, a new order is emerging. Assad is settling accounts with rebels who worked with Israel and Western countries during the rebellion. The central role in this surfacing new order has begun taken by Iran and its allies. Iran has begun to surface as the force behind the Assad throne. Without the stabilizing effect of US troops, the government has a free hand to do as it pleases. After announcing an amnesty to the rebels if they would “normalize their status,” the Syrian government has actually begun killing the former rebels that were promised pardon. The body of Ghanim al-Jamous, former head of the Syrian Police in the town of Dael was found on the roadside. Enough said?

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsay Graham flew to Turkey to meet with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erodogan to quiet the flap in which Erodogan called Trump a traitor after the American president made conflicting promises to Erodogan. Graham is calling for a much, much slower withdrawal that is smarter than Trump’s announcement. Turkey had refused to allow security adviser John Bolton to come to Turkey because of his threats that Kurds would be protected by the US. During the visit Graham contradicted Trump’s statement that ISIS had been defeated. Senator Graham’s concern was that the entire situation could turn into another dangerous mess.

“Really? How big a mess do we already have in Syria? Sitting across the ocean, it is easy to pontificate about quick pull outs, etc.. It is an entirely different matter when you are in Israel or a Kurd or a former rebel that will now face certain death.

American politicians can debate whether the US should be there at all. However, we are. We can’t turn our backs on our responsibilities because it is politically expedient to do so.

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BETRAYAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST? Part II

BLOG 418 January 21, 2019

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 I concluded with the statement. “Let’s face the facts. The enemy is Assad and the threat is Iran and Russia.  ISIS remains fighting and is not defeated.

One week later, the headlines in the media screamed, “Syria Attack kills 4 U.S. Citizens.” The suicide bombing killed at least 16 people. The Associated Press reported, “The strategic northeastern town of Manbij highlighted the threat posed by the Islamic State group despite Trump’s claims.” In seven days, the reports confirmed the fact that ISIS is far from dead.

The arbitrary and abrupt withdrawal of US troops has left the door open not only for more killing of American personnel, but for a power play that will further destabilize the region. Who is applauding the sudden retreat of the USA?  Russian and Iran.

The foregoing is not my opinion, but what allies and particularly Israel are currently saying.

What further complicates the situation are the divergent opinions expressed by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo trying to assure the Kurds and Israel that Trump didn’t really mean what he said. Yet, the most recent reports seem to indicate military equipment is  currently being withdrawn. Who knows what the reality of the situation actually is! The impression one receives is that informed leaders in the current administration are trying to temper Trump’s uninformed decision.

The immediate wild-card is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan. On December 14, 2018, President Trump said Erodgan assured him Turkey would not attack the Kurds. On December 17, 2018, Erodgan reiterated his threat to attack the Kurds. If that threat is carried out, one of America’s most faithful and consistent allies are open to an assault from the Turks.

Even though a NATO ally, Turkey has been on a path of authoritarianism and support for the Sunni faction of Islam. In addition, Erodgan has been deliberately increasing his ties with Russia. This situation makes Trump’s talk of withdrawal all the more ominous.

So, where are we? Not in a good place!

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BETRAYAL IN THE MIDDLE EAST?

BLOG 417 January 14, 2019

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.

In these blogs, I attempt to express an objective analysis of the Middle East situation regardless of my personal political viewpoints. In these times of political chaos in America with the government shut-down, political parties locked in turmoil, and the stock market sliding because of the political instability, it is difficult to keep these elements out of the Middle Eastern war. Nevertheless, the following is what appears to be the reality of the situation.

President Donald Trump’s abrupt and totally unexpected decision to pull America out of Syria has brought more chaos to the region. After Secretary Rex Tillerson left office, he noted that Trump didn’t read much and paid little attention to memos. (He also called Trump a moron while in office) Unfortunately, it now appears Tillerson knew exactly what he was talking about. Trump’s ill-timed pronouncement has further deteriorated America’s role in creating stability in the region.

The problem began with President Obama drawing a red-line in Syria and then doing nothing when it was crossed. Obama’s lack of forceful leadership left the door open for the Russians and Iranians to rush up. The result was that Bashar Assad was not toppled and those two dictatorships were more entrenched than ever.

President Trump said he had assurances from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey would not attack the Kurds. Now, Erdogan implies Trump is a traitor and said they would make no concessions in regard to the Kurds. During the Syrian civil war, the Kurds had been America’s firmest allies. Have they now been hung out to dry by both Trump and Erdogan?

Secretary of State Pompeo immediately spoke to assure the Kurds they would be safe after the US leaves. During this trip, Pompeo made an unscheduled stop in Iraq to attempt to quiet fears the Americas are abandoning the region and retreating from a fight with ISIS. Pompeo attempted to maintain America still stood with the Kurds.

Meanwhile, Security Advisor John Bolton was whisked off to Israel to attempt to quiet Israeli fears that the US was turning the ship around and running. Leaving the door wide open in Syria for Iranian advances caused Trump’s stock with Israel to drop lower than the decline in the American stock market!

The administration is suddenly hedging their bets saying any withdrawal will come slowly … and yet news reports say equipment is now being withdrawn. Really? Who is running this show?

Far from ending anything, Trump’s pronouncement has only further increased fear and vulnerability for Israel and other countries in the region.

Regardless of what promises Trump campaigned on, an American President is expected to make decisions on the current conditions and not abandon world leadership simply because attention needs to be diverted away from their own personal scandals.

Let’s face the facts. The enemy is Assad and the threat is Iran. ISIS remains fighting and is not defeated.

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THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW YEAR

BLOG 416 January 7, 2019

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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here we are with the first blog of 2019! Can you believe it? What shall we say?

The year ended with the worst stock market drop since the Great Depression. The president has shut down the government and no one knows when it will open. The president’s closest legal advisers are off to jail and the scandal over payments over his affairs with two women is cooking while Congress waits for Robert Mueller’s Investigative Report. In the Middle East, the police are for the third time calling for the prosecution of Prime Minister Netanyahu for corruption. At the same time, Israeli discovered that Hezbollah tried to dig tunnels under the border in the Galilee area to be used for an attack on them.

What can we say as a new year begins?

Let’s set the scandals and disagreements aside and start this year on an entirely different basis. Thomas Merton in his essay The Root of War is Fear has some important insight for us. At the root of all war is fear, not so much the fear people have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another: they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves … It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves that is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves … Only love – which means humility- can can exorcise the fear that is at the root of war.

Every time we turn on the television or follow news reports, we are swimming in a sea of anxiety. Violence, bombings, school shootings, terrorist reports, fear of environmental collapse, the Stock Market falling, on and on the sources of fear are constantly at our doorstep.

Thomas Merton has important instruction for us. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to push aside fear and decide to walk in the pathway marked love. Let’s decide to follow the headlines without being swallowed by anxiety. Let’s allow love to remain supreme in 2019.

We have a new website you might enjoy ~ THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY  ~ Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith for today. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

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THE END OF THE YEAR! A SCREECHING HALT!

BLOG 415 December 24, 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. Wi se first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

What a way to wind up the year! This last week America had the worst stock market drop since the Great Depression. The worldwide applauded Secretary of Defense and key officials related to the war in Syria quit because of a totally unexpected decision by a president who may have made one of the most disastrous decisions in recent history out of the clear blue with no consultation with allies. Trump declared America to arbitrary run from the war with ISIS (which is not defeated but crippled). Because he can’t get his way (in a government based on compromise), the president has shut down the government. This was possibly done to shield attention to the face that the president’s closest legal advisers are off to jail because they lied about his payments to two bimbos during sexual flings.

How bad can it get?

We’ve got to find something better than that scene if we’re going to have a merry Christmas. Can I come up with a Middle East story to offer a better tomorrow. Maybe. Here’s some recent news to give you something positive to remember.

Recent archeological finds hit the jackpot. A number of exciting Israeli archaeological finds have attracted international attention. Experts have deciphered the inscription on a copper-alloy stamping ring believed to be the ring that once belonged to Pontius Pilate. This is the same Roman prefect who sentenced Jesus to death. In the words on the ring is the phrase “Of Pilate.” The ring has a depiction of a Greek krater or jar used in watering down wine. The ring would have been used in daily functions such as stamping documents or certifying their approval by Pilate.

The ring was found at the archeological site of Herodium. Rising up like a mountain from the surrounding fields, Herodium towered over the area and made a safe place for Herod the Great to live or retreat to.  The other evidence of Pilate can be found at Caesarea by the sea in a Roman theater. With Pilate’s name carved in a rock slab, the find had been for his reserved seat in the theater. I have seen both Herodium and the Caesarea theater a number of times. It’s always a thrill to see this remnant of Pilate.

These two discoveries validate the Christian story in the gospels. The other site that always lingers in memory  is to be found next to the recovered remains of the Antonio place in Jerusalem. Beneath the Convent of the Sisters of Zion was found etched in rock a Roman game in which the loser was crowned “King.” The site exactly corresponds with the account of Jesus being crowned with thorns and called the “King of the Jews.”

These ancient sites remind us that today’s political woes and turmoil will pass. The pain and worry we have over these situations will fade and what remains will be the eternal evidence of the plan of God that unfolded in spite of all human nonsense and ineptitude. We can rejoice that in a conquered land filled with struggling people under circumstances of poverty, the hope of the world was born.

Little things often counted the most.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We will be on the road between Christmas and the new year.  So the next blog will be January 7, 2019.

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THE CONTINUING DRAMA IN ISRAEL

BLOG 413 December 10, 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.

While we have been exploring the conflict between Israel and Gaza, another drama has been playing out effecting both Israel and surrounding Arab countries. Both situations are important to follow for observers of the continuing Middle East drama.

As reported earlier, the police continue to be on the trail of alleged allegations of bribery leveled against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In Israel, the police make a charge, but the ministry of justice must bring the case to court. Last Sunday the police recommended proceeding with previous charges and added a new third court. Netanyahu seemingly eased business regulations for the Israeli’s largest telecommunications company in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his wife on the television stations owned by the company.

Called Case 4000, the police also brought charges against Shaul Elovitch a major stockholder in the company and close friend of Netanyahu. Elovitch’s wife Iris and Sara Netanyahu are also included in the charges. A case is pending against Sara Netanyahu for breach of public trust. The only one to push the situation forward is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who is currently playing a waiting game.

Of course, the Prime Minister’s political opponents immediately called for his resignation. Regardless of which way the wind blows, Netanyahu faces a raft of legal woes and problems.

At the same time, the Prime Minister continues his unprecedented trips to Arab countries. In addition, to working with Egypt and Jordan, Oman has extended an official invitation. Netanyahu met with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said to discuss a multitude of issues, including air traffic over Oman. Recently, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated Israel has a right to exist. Riyadh’s decision to allow Israel over Saudi airspace is highly significant. One must not overstate the meaning of these gestures, but they signal an important softening of the Arab world’s attitude toward Israel.

Contrasting criminal charges with highly important gains in the Arab world have to be balanced in the thinking of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Does Israel really want to take the Prime Minister and his wife to court while important gains are made abroad?

There’s more to come. Stay tuned.

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WHY DON’T THEY STOP FIGHTING?

BLOG 412 December 3, 2018December 3, 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.

The recent outbreak of hostility from and toward Gaza raises a question that Westerners have a hard time understanding. After 70 years of off-and-on warfare, why can’t the Israelis and the Palestinians reach a peace settlement? Ending hostilities would be profitable for both sides. While the answer is actually obvious, it remains an enigma in the West.

American presidents come alone every so many years and think they can quickly bring an end to the struggle. Bill Clinton thought he had it in the bag and then Yasser Arafat walked out. The latest bravo came from Donald Trump who said it shouldn’t be difficult to settle. Was he ever diluted!

They all failed to recognize the obvious. Muslim and Arab countries don’t base their decision on democratic standards and ideals. There are no secular Arab states. The suggestion of a separation of church and state would be considered nonsense in their world. The one marginal Muslim state in Turkey has become “Islamized” during the last 20 years. Religious convictions govern what they all do.

The positions that these countries take is based on Islamic texts. At the heart of their religion is the belief that they must oppose Israel. Groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood base their hostile and deadly actions on their faith. Contrary to Western political pronouncements, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not secularized. There political statements proclaim the same religious under-girding.

There are essentially three types of wars: political, just, and holy wars. The American Civil War was a political struggle between the North and the South. World War II has been considered a just war because the Axis operated with cruel, unjust, and inhuman intent. The most dangerous type of warfare is a holy war because at least one of the participants believes they are fighting for Divinity and God Almighty will give them the victory. An end to such a war cannot be negotiated.

Because one side believes God is their champion, they will fight to the death and never voluntarily give ground. The senior-most religious adviser to the PA recently said, “It is the duty of the leaders of the (Islamic) nation and its peoples to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem.” Suicide bombers who blow themselves up for the cause make the point.

That’s the bottom line!

Sorry. There’s no peaceful solution to such a conflict.

We have a new website you might enjoy ~ THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith for today. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

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A CONTINUING LOOK AT GAZA

BLOG 411 November 19, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EASTEach 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.

The optimism in last week’s blog abruptly exploded. I noted that neither Israel or Hamas wanted another war. Almost before the ink dried, Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with a barrage of rockets and Israeli warplanes hit the Gaza Strip with the most intense exchange of fire since the 2014 war.

What happened?

Actually, the report of hopes to avoid another full-scale conflict was not incorrect. Neither side wanted a return to that murderous situation, but an Israeli commando unit tried an undercover mission and was caught inside Gaza. Hamas militants opened fire resulting in the deaths of seven militants and an Israeli military officer as well as a Hamas commander. This struggle set off the fierce exchange upsetting the status quo. A Hamas television station in Gaza was destroyed. Israel reported 20 people in Gaza were wounded.

You could be wondering, “Why doesn’t Israel destroy Hamas?” They certainly have the capacity to do so. The answer is simple. There is no one in sight to provide a new government to oversee the Gaza Strip. Israel has always operated by the principle “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” As a result, Hamas is tolerated even though they are an irritant.

As reported last week, Egypt continues to attempt to broker a peace deal and reduce tension. The United Nations now works through Egypt to stop the violence.  They issued a statement saying, “Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all.”

President Mahmoud Abbas has been angered that the Palestinian Authority remains sidelined in these struggles and negotiations. They see Egypt ignoring any possible Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Abbas claimed Egypt’s efforts are a “betrayal of the Palestinian people and its national aspirations.” The truth is that anyone who has followed the Palestinian situation knows the PLO is about as dependable as a 1920 Ford with a blow-out tire going down a freeway in 2018.

As of this date, the battle is over. Let’s hope it stays that way.

We have a new website THE EARLY CHURCH FOR TODAY Surveying the first 3 centuries, we are examining the ancient Christian faith. The focus is practical, relevant, and inspirational. TUNE IN Join us at earlyfaithfortoday.com

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