Category Archives: Peace


BLOG 308 June 27, 2016

Probably the largest migration in human history has been pouring across Asia and Europe as millions flee the wars in Syria and Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East facing terrorist’s strikes. What sends them running? The fear factor.
After months of the immigration to countries like Hungry, German, France, etc., many European countries are closing their borders and pushing back. The numbers flooding into Europe have filled villages with a completely different population. Muslims are often known not to assimilate  and remain permanent outsiders. Of course, this tendency becomes threatening to locals whose ancestors have lived in these areas for millenniums. What’s the motivation behind the resistance to poor people in desperate need? The fear factor.
The most recent example of the problem was the affirmative vote in the UK to withdraw from the European Union. The impact of this decision sent ripples (more like tidal waves) across stock markets all over the world. In the United States, the Dow Jones average had just reached 18,000. After the UK vote, the market sank 600 points to a low of 17,400. The British pound dropped from around 1.75 to the dollar to a low of  130 pounds. In addition, the Brits discovered that Scotland was not going to pull out of the EU which split the unity of the United Kingdom . Multitudes immediately started petitions to rescind the vote. They had obviously miscalculated.
What was going on? Fundamentally, the immigration issue had pushed the envelope way too far. Extreme Muslim attacks in France and Belgium had greatly increased anxiety in the UK. The motivating force behind the vote?  The fear factor.
Folks who don’t think that wars and chaos on the other side of the globe have any affect on them had better take a second look. Fear doesn’t recognize border lines or passport numbers.  Recently, EJA (European Jewish Association) head Rabbi Menachem Margolin noted that 40% of European Jews choose to hide their identity.The level of anti-Semitism has grown that significantly in recent years. EJA is the largest Jewish Federation in Europe and knows the terrain well. Even during the high holidays on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when all Jews gather, 80% now stay away from synagogues. The reason?  The fear factor!
The EJA continues to believe that Jews have an integral place in Europe and must not retreat. The fight against racism and xenophobia as well as all forms of discrimination begins at an early age They are not retreating even though their constituency has worries. I believe their example points the way through these perfidious times. While there are reasons to be fearful, it is not time to retreat. The day has come to be persistent in our bravery – wherever persistence is needed. We must reject the fear factor.



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Filed under America, Judaism, middle east, Muslims, Peace, Violence


BLOG 303 May 23, 2016

With the outrageous rhetoric of Donald Trump and the Clinton and Sanders deadlock, the media has lately said little about the continuing struggle in the Holy Land. But we need to know more.

Knife attacks by Palestinians inside Israel have subsided somewhat and Israel has become more competent at stopping lone wolf assaults before they happen. However, more is going on behind the scenes.

Why should you care? Because any settlement (or lack of it) has consequences for Europe, America, and the rest of the Middle East. The festering problem of the Palestinians has infected many other Arab communities. Prospects for genuine peace across the Middle East depend on some form of reconciliation.

Why can’t this problem get solved? Because Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas don’t want it done. Netanyahu rightly says the Palestinians won’t recognize the right of Israel to exist. He fears the creation of another armed Arab country with guns aimed at Israel. An independent Palestine could become another Islamic dictatorship. On the other hand, Abbas’s attempts to achieve statehood through diplomacy and wiggling his way into the United Nations have totally sunk. Because Abbas has continually failed, he has lost credibility at home. What can he achieve now by renewed negotiations with Israel?

Many voices continually speak of the “almost” collapsing Palestinian Authority (PA). While this is probably unlike, it reflects the deterioration in the West Bank. If the PA did implode, Israel would be forced to step in to restore order and take over a virtually bankrupted state. The headaches for Israel would be endless. Abbas understands this and the possibility gives him some leverage.

The big problem for the Palestinians is leadership. Abbas is 80-years old. A decade ago he was elected to a four-year term and there’s been no election since. He is now seen as an authority with no authority. When his leadership has been threatened, Abbas’s response has generally been suppression. Among the names at the top of today’s list to succeed him is Marwan Barghoutin. The big problem is that he is currently serving five life sentences from an Israel Court for leading two uprisings and for murder. He’s a little like electing Al Capone for Attorney General. Not much promise there!

A recent poll by the Ramallah based Arab World for Research and Development indicated that today the Palestinians have little faith in violent resistance and are more concerned about personal income and safety. In the Gaza Strip’s summer war, Hamas lost 2,100 Palestinians while Israel lost only 67 soldiers. The Palestinians are beginning to figure out that violence goes nowhere – but to a cemetery.

So, keep your eye on what Mahmoud Abbas does next (if anything). Hopeful Palestine will not be plunged into period of chaos. At this point, there are no promises.

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Filed under America, Israel, middle east, Palestinians, Peace


    HEY! I’m across the pond currently working in the land of 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth and picking up material that I’ll be sending you in the near future. England is always nice as spring begins to take out.
    Stay tuned. More is on the way next week!

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Filed under Bible Lands, middle east, Peace


BLOG 300 April 25, 2016

The first night of Passover began on the evening of April 22 and is still being observed through April 30 by Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. Often called “The Festival of Freedom,” the Seder commemorates the release of Jews from bondage in Egypt. It’s a good weekend to consider the quest for genuine freedom from fear in Israel.

With the American headlines absorbed with politicians screaming at each other, there have been virtually no stories on the Middle East. In case you’ve missed it, Israel has been living through a continuing struggle now called the “stabbing Intifada.” Israelis are being attacked with knives. However, more than 70% of terrorist attacks are thwarted by Israeli security forces, but recently a bomb exploded in a bus and many women and children were killed. The problem hasn’t stopped.

The truth is that most Palestinians put little faith in violent resistance and don’t want another out and out intifada with Israel. Today, months after the big war, the Gaza Strip remains a pile of rubble. Toppled buildings and broken concrete are a silent witness to the futility of harassing Israel. Fanatics in Hamas say they’re ready to attack again, but that’s fundamentally just words at this time. Their leaders make big speeches while they pocket millions of dollar that were supposed to go for the people. The contradictions are obvious.

The on-going debate is whether the Palestinian Authority is going to collapse. Fundamentally, the PA is financed from outside of its area. Should those external funds (and tax rebates from Israel) stop, the PA would be done. They continue to wrestle with ineptitude and stagnation as Mahmoud Abbas limps toward death. Apparently, he won’t resign. The jihadists won’t give up and innocent people continue to suffer.

An article in Dissident Voice by Jeff Bankfort claimed that the Oslo peace agreement actually rescued Yasser Arafat. The price the PA paid was legitimizing t he presence of Israel in 62% of the West Bank. The person who negotiated this settlement on behalf of Arafat was Mahmoud Abbas, the current head of the PA in Jericho. Bankfort concluded that a state of cooperation with Israel now exists that verges on collaboration. In other words, Abbas is obstinate in public and far more conciliatory in private.

Bankfort’s idea may be overstated and optimistic, but it is certainly hopeful. What goes on behind the scenes is often in the direction of genuine negotiation. If so, this year’s Seder may indeed be a celebration of freedom and peace.

Let us pray with the Jewish world that this year’s Passover is truly another time when the angel of death flew over – maybe for the entire Middle East.

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Peace


RobertandPopeFrancis-webMy blogs focus on the Middle East and clarifying the on-going politics of the major countries in the region. I attempt to give a balanced view of events apart from personal concerns or vested interests. However, I have just returned from an important trip to Rome and a private audience with the Pope. Anyone interested in world peace and unity among previously hostile groups would be interested in my conversations with his Holiness. Consequently, I want to share with you the following press release from the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.

Pope Francis contacted Bishop Tony Palmer and Archbishop Robert L. Wise of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches asking them to come to Rome for a private audience and discussion of the Pope’s quest for unity and restoration of relationships between Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Archbishop Wise and Bishop Palmer also huddled with the Vatican’s office of Ecumenical Relations to discuss greater unity. Wise is a resident of Oklahoma City.

Archbishop Wise was former head of the Communion’s office of Ecumenical Relationships before turning leadership over to Bishop Palmer who lives in England. The CEEC knew Archbishop Jose Marie Bergoglio before his election and becoming Pope Francis. Both Palmer and Wise know him as friend while Pope Francis is a spiritual father to Bishop Palmer.

Archbishop Wise said, “the Pope is a gentle, gracious man with a unique gift of humility. His Holiness has a profound spiritual sensitivity and listens carefully to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We sat together and talked as friends.”

The tension between Catholics and Protestants positions was ended with the Vatican’s acceptance of Martin Luther’s doctrine of Justification by Faith. Both Wise and Palmer were present in Bari, Italy when this was publically proclaimed. Wise said, “The world should know the battle is over. We can love each other as Christians and stand shoulder to shoulder. Brotherhood now exists.”

Wise and Palmer met the Pope in his private residence behind the Cathedral of St. Peter’s in Vatican City. Earlier Bishop Palmer released a video tape of the Pope expressing his love and desire for unity with all Christians through the internet that was seen across the world. Archbishop Wise said, “A new day is at hand for the entire world. We rejoice in the Pope’s desire that we join hands in love and unity. Our task is to make sure the entire church understands that we stand at a new place in history.”

This press release reflects the Vatican’s concern to create a world-wide condition in which peace and unity help create a new environment for hope that struggling and warring parties can find new agreement. I believe it is worthy of our attention.


Filed under Catholics, Christians, Peace, Travels


            Now that hostilities have ceased, the next step between Israel and Palestinian militants is some form of negotiated settlement. Hamas will push for the lifting of the blockade that has stifled goods being shipped into the country. Five years after Hamas seized control from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the blockade was imposed by Israel to halt the flow of military weapons into Gaza. The closing of all ports has been highly successful, leaving Gaza in an impoverished condition. In turn, Israel will demand an end to arms smuggling. Weapons have continued to come in through a system of tunnels built along the Egyptian border. These tunnels were one of the main targets during the eight days of air strikes by Israel. Significant damage was done to this system.

            Obviously, negotiations will be long and tough. Both sides have a great deal at stake. Egypt’s continuing role is to work with Gaza and Israel to start talks. However, the ongoing turmoil in Egypt has made President Morsi’s position tenuous. Undoubtedly, his time is consumed with trying to survive the current upheaval since he claimed dictatorial powers. It is not clear when negotiations can begin in earnest with President Morsi at the table..

But what can be expected?

This past week the world got a few clues from the first visit to Gaza City in history of the political leader of Hamas. Khaled Meshai delivered a defiant speech, vowing to built an Islamic Palestinians state on all the land of Israel. Tens of thousands of supporters gathered to hear Meshai promise the Jewish state would be wiped out by resistance and military action. Meshai said, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concessions on any inch of the land.”

The Hamas leader promised no recognition of the legitimacy of Israel, vowing that they would free Jerusalem no matter how long it takes. Hamas appears to have developed a new confidence believing they have stood up to Israel. However, they know that the fall of President Morsi would have dire consequences for them.

So, what can the world make of the current situation. Palestinian defenders are not likely to write Meshal’s speech off as political rhetoric. They believe in what he said. Certainly his ideas represent the Hamas constitution. He must be taken seriously. Unfortunately, terrorist are not deterred by such things as having all their buildings smashed and their leaders killed. They’ll be back tomorrow with a another truck load of weapons.

Until Hamas reaches a reconciliation with the PLO, the Palestinians remain divided and Israel has stated it will not negotiate with any terrorist group seeking their downfall. Therefore, we have come again to an impasse going nowhere. This amounts to a continuation of the status quo of past years. We cannot expect much to come out of the proposed negotiations.

With Syria poised for a downfall of the Assad regime with radical changes on the horizon, and Iran enriching uranium for a bomb, both sides have a great deal to think about. Nothing is ever easy in the Middle East. And it hasn’t gotten any smoother.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Palestinians, Peace


    Sorry for the problems! We’ve had internet and computer issues that kept us off line. We beg your forgiveness but we’re NOW back in action. Thanks for being so understanding. Here are this week’s blogs.  Robert L. Wise

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                                                        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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Filed under Faith, History, middle east, Peace, Prayer, Stories, World

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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Filed under Faith, History, middle east, Peace, World

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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Filed under Faith, History, middle east, Peace, Prayer, World