Category Archives: Redemption



            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!


            People often ask where I get the ideas for my books with a range from near-death experiences (Non-fiction, Crossing the Threshold of Eternity) to World War II adventures (Fiction, The Narrow Door at Colditz). I imagine different authors have very different approaches to the question. One of my dearest friends is a romance writer who dreams (literally) her plots. That’s a fascinating one for you! I find her angle truly intriguing.

In my case, there are a number of factors at work. In the first place, I never intended to be a writer. One of my college degrees is in art and ceremics. Painting the great watercolor attracted me. I got into writing when a publisher heard a series of tapes I produced on amalgamating psychology and theology. Hesitantly, I ended up producing a little book called, Your Churning Place and that started the typewriter clicking. With time, I got so deeply into writing, I didn’t have time for my art work anymore. (That’s changed lately)

As a reluctant author, my fiction books, like The Assassins, have grown out of a number of factors. Certainly, travel created a unique context. As I noted in earlier blogs, my time in Russia filled in many of the blank spaces in my thinking. Somewhere along the way, I lost count of how many countries I have visited. I know it’s over 60 and touches every continent except Australia. Travel always confronts one with the unexpected and that provides material for writing. My time spent in Rome and the Vatican offered surprises and exciting twists for novels. During the days of Apartheid, I traveled to Sourth Africa and even stayed in a black township (which was then illegal). For me, travel has turned out to be significant.source of information in writing books.

I find information in newspapers peakes my curosity. Before I wrote The Assassins, I began gathering data on the internet attack on Iranian computers that halted their nuclear program. The more I read about the Strunex virus, the more I pondered how such an attack might have occurred. From those stories began to evolve the plot that turned into a book. One of my favorite writers is Daniel Silva with his stories of international intrigue. In an unexpected way, Daniel Silva’s influence contributed to my own story.

Actually, reading is one of the most important activites any writer can do. I find many people who want to write never read. Sorry. It won’t work. Reading takes one into worlds that can never be visited but can be experienced through words. Books indirectly help stimulate one’s ability to use words. Perusing through books helps you come to grips with your own style and voice. Writing a book may sound like a fascinating idea, but if you don’t want to read all the time, put that idea in the closet with Santa Claus.

Where’s all this going? Well, the bottom line on what makes an author (in my opinion) is imagination. You can learn the technics of grammar and and style, but no one can teach you imagination. E.B. White wrote the classic on writing simply, but he can’t tell you how to go to the moon in a rocket ship called magic thinking. Visonary thinking keeps the world spinning and the plot thickening. It’s the greatest fun in the world. And makes books happen!

So, let your mind roll on and what comes out may really surprise you.!

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Filed under Christians, Crossing the Threshold of Eternity, Faith, History, Nature, Near Death Experiences, Prayer, Redemption, Rest, Shrouded in Silence, Stories, Syria, World






            In the July 22, 2012 New York Times, Janine Giovanni reports on her just completed experience traveling in Syria. Ms. Giovanni describes her disconcerting encounters one receives in the midst of a civil war. The continuing degeneration of Syria lay in rubble everywhere along with a near-total media blackout. While Syrians earlier identified themselves by their national origin, they now describe themselves as Alawites, Christians, Sunnis, Shias, and Druze. The core of the country is crumbling.

Disintegration also appears on the diplomatic front. Kofi Annan tried and failed. Universally, we now recognize cease-fire actually means buying time for more killing. With Russian vetos at the U.N. protecting their own interests,  Giovanni perceives another Bosnia looms on the horizon. Boundaries become indistinguishable. I know what she means.

More by accident than intention, some years ago I traveled through the Bosnian conflict on my way down to the Adriatic Sea. Through the windshield, I recognized we were approaching a sandbagged machine gun outpost. We pulled up and I ask where we were. The soldier leaned over his weapon and said, “In the middle of the war.” No signs said, “War straight ahead: Detour.” Needless to say, we quickly moved on!

Janine Giovanni’s point is that no one’s in charge in Syria.

Recently, I received a blog response from Italian journalist Alessandra Nucci warning about distortions in the media reporting on the war. She makes two points worth remembering. First, many stories may reflect personal opinions that may be political bias. She’s right on the money; particularly in a civil war with a news blackout. You have to view the situation from many angles to get the total picture. Recently, a United Kingdom source claimed the “Arab Springtime” was planned by Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama. From the very beginning U.S. Secret Service agents were behind the uprisings. Sheer nonsense, but it makes her point.  The Manchester Guardian seemed to believe Assad had been framed. Come on, folks. Let’s get real.

Second, Nucci notes that ending the Assad regime may only bring more chaos, not improvement. Right again.

Many Israelis are not supporting the overthrow of Assad for this very reason. Former Mossad head Meir Dagan noted that the devil you know is to be preferred to the devil your don’t know. Alessandra Nucci makes the point that Assad may well be replaced by a more radical Islamic fundamentalist regime. Anticipating this possibility, the United States has been supplying material and weapons to the rebels. Obviously, hoping to come out on their good side.

Ms. Nucci warns that overthrow of Assad could result in hundreds of thousands of Christians fleeing the country after a rebel victory or being murdered by Muslims. It is true that the Christian population has supported Assad because his government has protected minorities (Assad, the Alawit, comes from a minority)

So what can we conclude today? One can’t overlook Assad’s atrocities and cruelty. At the same time, assessing the rebels may not yield better expectations. The civil war keeps going back and forth so our currents opinions could be proven wrong. We won’t know for sure until the war is completely over.



What do you think might end the Syrian conflict?

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Filed under Christians, Faith, Forgivness, Judism, middle east, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Syria, World



In the last blog, I examined President Mohammed Morsi’s challenge to the generals. On the heels of that confrontation, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton arrived in town. The exchange wasn’t much better.
Of course, the United States is concerned. Hosni Mubarak proved to be a good ally. Even with the problems of his administration, the strong man helped both the USA and Israel. A period of relative peace provided prosperity for Egypt. Clinton wisely wanted to encourage the relationship. Unfortunately, the new day remains filled with old wounds. Clinton’s initial encounter didn’t come off any better than Morsi’s first dance with the generals.

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During my just completed trip to Israel, I traveled the country from the Syrian and Lebanese boarders to the Dead Sea. I remember when the salty water nearly bordered the highway. Currently, it has been reduced hundreds of yards. Israeli tourist still go down to the shores to sit in the sun or to take medicinal mud baths, but the sea level has become frighteningly low. Discussions are underway to increase the Dead Sea, including an idea to pump water from the Mediterrean. The problem is that the use of water from the Jordan River has decreased to allow little return to the lowest point on earth.
Just a little tidbit for my ecological minded friends.
Here’s the most recent update on the political front.
The Palestinian Authority has just proposed new informal talks with Israel. Before the talks can actually being, Israel must meet two conditions. The Palestinians are calling for the release of more prisoners and the importing of more weapons for the security forces in the West Bank. Abbas and Netanyahu have not met face to face since September 2010.
In response, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said Netanyahu would meet for informal talks anywhere any time without any preconditions. In addition, Israeli officials said they were not aware of any shortage of weapons among Palestinian security personnel. Just two weeks ago, Israel released the bodies of dead terrorist for burial in Palestinians territories.
What’s going on here?
For some time, the Palestinians have been attempting to criminalize Israel. Everything Israel does is slammed with the intention of attaching labels of provocateurs, terrorists, and criminals. While the Palestinians would not admit it publically, prisoners held in Israel have been terrorist. In other words, without saying it, the Palestinians are admitting their people have been attacking the state of Israel. Quite the opposite of what they want to admit publically.
Secondly, asking for Israel to allow more weapons into the West Bank is an admission of how tightly Israel has been able to clamp down on weapon shipments. The PA is definitely in a defensive position and they know it.
In addition, the PA still maintains its original posture, that Israel must cease building settlements in disputed areas before genuine negotiations can begin for a peace settlement. They know Israel will not accept these terms as a pre-condition for talks. In other words, the PA continues to stall while attempting to appear ready to negotiate.

Long ago this strategy was played out by Yasher Arafat. As was revealed the last time Arafat walked out of negotiations, the PA has no intention of coming to terms with a peace agreement. As Abba Ebon once observed. “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The reason is simple. Palestinians will settle for nothing short of Israel being pushed into the sea. Rather than peace; they want conquest.
And what happens while they wait? Israel continues to prosper. The Palestinians languish in their own limitations. Will this current call to launch dialogue go anywhere? My hunch is that it is a shot at influencing world opinion to believe the PA is a peace-minded organization. Sorry, it is probably not worthy of inclusion in the media.

Can the PA even be believed … or trusted?

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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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Some years ago, I flew into the Sinai area to visit St. Catherine’s Monastery and climb Mount Sinai, the traditional sight where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The area remains so intensely arrid that you feel like your nose will shrivel up into the back of your head. Following a fascinating tour of the 1,400 year oldest existing Greek Orthodox monastery, I climbed Sinai and then departed for Eilat on the sea-coast. An afternoon swim with tropical fish leaves a refreshing impression. I couldn’t image hostilities breaking out in this fascinating site. During the first Thursday in April, the normally tranquil Red Sea vacation spot was hit by missiles fired from Egypt’s Sinai desert area. Prime Minister Netanyahu warned the Sinai could be in danger of becoming a “terror zone.” Following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, there has been a growing lawlessness in that region. Weak policies and difficult terrain could turn the peninsula into the latest front for Islamic militant activity, including al-Qaida. The issue has raised new concern across Israel. Although unauthorized to speak to the press, Egyptian security forces and military aircraft reported searching the southeastern Sinai for militants. A year ago, gunmen from the Sinai crawled into Israel and ambushed vehicles on a desert highway. The brazen attack left eight Israelis dead. Palestinian militants from Gaza probably traveled westward into the Sinai and then returned to Gaza. The recent upheavals in Egypt resulting from a power vacuum have opened up new options and possibilities for attacks against Israel in what had previously been a quiet and secure front. Current events in Egypt may yet have a bearing on this terrorist problem. In an attempt to keep militants an illegal migrants out, Israel is currently stepping up surveillance on the Egyptian border. A new electronic barrier along the 150 mile frontier will be completed by the end of the year. While Arabs screamed when a similar fence was created across the northern portion of Israel and cut through the highway close to Bethlehem, the wall has produced a highly significant decrease in suicide bombings inside Israel. Arabs may not like the fences, but they do protect citizens. Netanyahu recognized a barrier doesn’t stop rockets, but it’s a start in the right direction. The Iron Dome, a short-range rocket interceptor, has been used to stop attacks coming out of Gaza. A similar device could be positioned near Egypt if necessary. In 1979, Egypt signed the first Arabic peace treaty with Israel. Since then, Islamic parties have arisen with their own particular hatreds of Israelis. Many of these groups now pose a threat to the ’79 accords. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest party in Egypt’s parliament, has indicated it would consider amending the treaty to allow more Egyptian troops along the border. The bottom line is that the Easter Bunny wasn’t hopping merrily down the trail in Israel this year. Israel must continue to maintain vigilance and firing a rocket into Eila isn’t a good sign for the future.

Have you noticed this incident at Eliat being reported elsewhere as an attack on Israel? If
not, does it seem to fit the way that the international press often doesn’t tell the full story
when it benefits Israel? What can Israel do to stop these assaults?

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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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