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BLOG 340 March 6, 2017


With all the turmoil in Washington D.C., during the last month, a number of things have become clear. The capacity of the executive branch of government has proven more limited than President Trump thought or realized. With the court blocking his immigration policy and now his back-peddling on many issues, the checks and balances of the America system is working.

Of course, such will continue to be the case with the Israel-Palestinian situation. Initial actions and reactions will feel the pressure to think twice before taking precipitous actions. Nevertheless, considerable pressure exists in Israel for radical change in a current situation that is going nowhere.

Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania Ian Lustick has not backed away from his statement in The New York Times that a two-state solution is an illusion. His position is that clinging to this ideal only clouds the political process. During his time working in Israel, what he observed led him to the conclusion that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s actual position only camouflages his true objective which is the de facto annexation of the West Bank. Lustick believes the aim of extensive settlement development is to accomplish that goal. While the professor believes future blood-shed and confrontations are inevitable, he proposes that ending what he calls “outdated ideas” will move the world forward.

Voices within Israel remind the world that the dominant religion beyond their borders is radical Islam. As long as this terrorist-oriented religion is strong (and there’s no end in sight), the nation of Israel must take extra precautions to protect their citizens. They vote to stop a non-functioning Arab state from bordering Israel. Looming on the horizon is the possible takeover of the PLO by Hamas. Such an option only further defeats the possibility of a two-state compromise.

Let’s add one other element that may finally be paramount in this problem. The Arabs vehemently deny Israel the right to exist. Arafat turned down a good solution for the Palestinians because his ultimate objection was to defeat Israel. Such has not changed!

As Israel continues to grow stronger, the PLO grows weaker. If this trend continues, somewhere there will be a crunch … and it won‘t be Israel.

Think about it, friends. How would you solve this crisis? If you come up with an answer, they are waiting for you to join them at the conference table.

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Blog 336 February 6, 2017

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Got some more priceless items for you! Last week I described some of the recent extraordinary discoveries going on in Israel. Because space is limited, I stopped with more finds to tell you about. You’ll find these additions to be significant.

Before we start, I need to update you about an immediate exchange between US President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. Just the same as was the case with the Obama Administration, Trump told Netanyahu to curb settlements in Palestinian territory. The President has a goal of achieving peace in the Middle East and continued expansion by Israel is seen as jeopardizing that possibility of negotiations. (not obtained by any American president). In spite of the campaign rhetoric, political reality apparently has set in!

Last week, I wrote of recently walking through the Tower of David courtyard now under excavation and the recent Hanukkah candle lighting celebration held there. Even though it appeared the dig was complete, veteran archeologist Orna Cohen was in the museum’s archeological gardens when he spotted a metallic object on the ground. When he looked again, Cohen realized it was a small bronze coin. Upon further examination, the coin turned out to be from the time of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes who set in motion the events that are now celebrated on Hanukkah. His draconian decree sparked the Maccabean revolt and the reclamation of the Temple.

The coin was found near the Hasmonen wall built in the days of Jonathan and Simon, brothers of Judah the Maccabee. In those days, the coin was worth probably around 10 agorots. Ballista strones and iron arrowheads were also found that evidenced the battle to overthrow the Seleucids which was the last time Israel was free until the coming of the Romans.

A more recent treasure of a different sort was turned up by archeologists working in the remains of the Nazi extermination camp at Sobibor in Poland. In the area where victims were forced to undress and then have their heads shaved, archeologists uncovered a pendant with the words “Mazel Tov” (congratulations) on one side and Heh for Hashem (God) along with three Stars of David embedded. The remains of the building were next to the so-called “Road to Heaven” that Jewish prisoners walked down to their deaths.

The foundation of the Sobibor gas chambers and the original railway platform have been uncovered. In addition, many personal items of victims have turned up.

With the town Frankfurt stamped on the bottom, the pendant was once owned by a child from Frankfurt. This immediately drew attention because it is so similar to the pendant owned by the Holocaust victim Anne Frank, the author of the Diary of Ann Frank. After a search of Yad Vashem’s database on “Transports to Extinction,” it was believed the pendant might have belonged to a girl named Karoline Cohn, born on July 3, 1929 and sent to the Minsk camp on November 11, 1941. Later 2,000 of these Jewish prisoners were sent to the Sobibor death camp. Both Ann Frank and Karoline Cohn were born in Frankfurt.

A coin from 2,100 years ago and a pendant from 1943: Symbols of the on-going struggle for freedom and dignity.

  • For more information on the Holy Land
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  • BIBLE LANDS: An Illustrated Guide to Scriptural places







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BLOG 319 September 19, 2016

The latest from Syria seems to suggest that the fragile four day cease-fire is holding. Fighting did erupt east of Damascus and around the besieged northern city of Aleppo. Rebel forces sparred with Syrian troops over territory around Jabra in the Ghouta area. However, American and Russian diplomats agreed not to let the agreement expire. An usual bit of good news indeed!

Some what of a surprise for the Middle East, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry publically stated that Israel’s actions again Palestinians do not constitute terrorism. He noted there is no evidence to connect Israel to any terrorist organization. Because of the struggles throughout their history, Israel must tighten control their territory as well as border crossings.

Of course, this comment from an Arab government did not sit well with the Hamas terrorist group. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson, said, “He who does not see the crimes of the Zionist occupation as terrorism is blind.” No surprise in that response.

Shoukry’s comments indicate a growing willingness in Egypt for a stronger relationship with Israel.

In the West Bank, politics is starting to heat up. Eighty-one-year old PLO President Mahmoud Abbas has been in office 11 years (in a four-year presidential term) following the death of Yasser Arafat. Because he has judiciously avoided naming a successor, the stage is now set for intense competition for his office and may end in all out violence. Reporting from Ramallah, the West Bank, Ben Lynfield reports that Abbas is widely criticized in Palestinian society for being too accommodating to Israel. On the other hand, Abbas is leading what would be a bankrupt government if it would not for outside financial support. One of the main contenders for office is Marwan Barghouti who is currently serving in Israel five life sentence for murder. Shehadeh Dahlan is another possible contender in a crowded field of hopefuls, including Fatah leader Saeb Erekat. All names worth remembering.

The lack of an election is an outgrowth of the struggle of Fatah with Hamas over the seizure of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Because Abbas won’t name a successor, the possibility of a free for all battle looms on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah now centered in Lebanon is having money troubles. Tightening US sanctions have put the squeeze on their finances. The United States passed a law requiring banks not to do business with the Shi’ite political group. Promoted by President Obama and called “The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015,” it has caused banks all over the world to retreat from the terrorist group. U.S. acting under secretary Adam Szubin of the U.S. Treasury Department said, “the group is in its worst financial shape in decades.” Lebanese banks will not even open accounts to members of parliament and members of Hezbollah families. The screws are tightening.

Is it possible that the pressures for war are lessening? Let’s hope so.



BIBLE LANDS: An Illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places

Barbour Books


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Blog 311 July 18, 2016

With the wild swings in American politics dominating the headlines, we don’t hear much about the war in Syria these days. Mass killings and police shootings have sent people to the streets in protests. Black Lives Matter dominates the headlines. No problem with those stories being up front – it is just that they have pushed the Middle East out of media coverage while the war in Syria goes on full tilt. And we need to be kept up on all fronts.

The civil war in Syria is approaching a six year anniversary with control swinging back and forth. The Russians abruptly emerged as leading the fight against the rebels and ISIS with America viewed as wobbly with no viable objectives in mind. The rebels wonder if the US would stand back and let them lose. Maybe.

Because of President Obama’s reluctance, Russian air power has now changed all calculations. At this late date, any American direct intervention could end up with a direct clash with Russia. Actually, Putin appears to be in control and dictating events inside Syria. Would the Obama Administration confront Russia in an election year? Not a chance.

The impeding assault on Aleppo has been projected to be a turning point in the entire war. With the help of Russian air power, Assad now appears to be back in the drivers seat. Even though starvation is a war crime, the Syrian government has put the squeeze on the 300,000 people left in Aleppo. This home once to 2.1 million citizens is now little more than rubble. With Damascus and Homs under Assad’s control, the fall of Aleppo would give him the main population and economic centers of Syria.

An analysis from the Carter Center suggests Assad’s government now controls 40% of the country with the rebels, Kurds, and ISIS holding about 20%. The numbers paint their own picture. The deal reached in Munich for a “cessation of hostilities” has done nothing. The bombs keep falling and ISIS keeps killing.

Why has the Obama administration been so dilatory? You tell me. ISIS has killed thousands and ethically cleansed 300,000 citizens by blindfolding men and elderly women and shooting them in the back of the head. Over 6,000 women have been sold into slavery and mass rape. The United Nations Independent International Commission said, “Genocide has occurred and is ongoing.” Are we missing something here? What part of the equation does America not understand?

Assad is a despotic murderer and ISIS is a indiscriminate killing machine. What don’t we understand about the Syrian debacle? Is anyone in the American camp going to do anything? It appears the USA has been entirely pre-empted by Russia.

Keep your eye on Aleppo and what happens next. The result could have long range consequences.

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My latest book is a study of evil from both a New Testament and

Old Testament perspective. Comprehensive and contemporary,

You will gain a present day insight on the unnoticed but ongoing

struggle that involves all of us!


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            Much that happens in the Middle East comes as the result of attrition, slow deliberate attempts that often are accomplished only in small increments. The Western world generally thinks in quite different terms that expects results overnight. The war in Afghanistan has taken over 10 years and nearly collapsed the American economy. Unthinkable! Not so in the Middle East.

            Columbus Day has come and gone, reminding Americans of the landing in 1492. (Of course, Columbus only came ashore and found the Indians that had been here forever) But the distance from 1776 to 2014, is a drop in the bucket. Egypt stretches back to pre-historic times. Israel calls this year 5774 on their calendar. The Middle East still ruminates over the Crusades that began in the first millennium and ended in the 1200’s. They operate with the awareness that their children’s children may have to finish a task they are working on.

Currently, a struggle over the control of the Temple Mount is increasing. Increasing numbers of Jews are visiting this ancient area in Jerusalem’s old city. Palestinian leaders are saying that the developing activity has created the worst tension in years around the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. They are now calling on Muslims to resist these incursions. This results in periodic stone throwing by the Muslims. Israeli police show up and arrest the trouble makes. Recently, an Israeli police officer was wounded while thousands of Arabs rallied in the north because of a warning that Al Aksa was in danger. Of course, the ramifications of these uprisings only perpetuates suspicion and ill-will.

The 37-acre site is probably the most contested religious ground on earth. Jews know it is the site of the first and second Temple. Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from that spot. Thousands of tourists come every year. The battle for who has rights to the site continues.

Recently, The New York Times reported a similar tension in the Syrian civil war. With thousands of immigrants living over the border in Jordan, the rebel fighters steal across the border to fight and then return to their families living in the immigrant camps.

A Syrian rebel soldier comes home to the children in places like Ramtha, Jordan. Modern electronics allows them to keep in touch and even see their families while the battles go on. Often, they will be gone for weeks before they return home. Of course, the possibility of being killed remains high and the families wait with anxiety.

The Syria war wears on year after year. Currently, the agreement between Russia and America has set in motion the removal of chemical weapons, but this will not halt the continual journeys of rebels who journey in and out of Jordan.

If the war can only be won by taking it an inch at a time, their response is, “so be it.” The Western world rushes off to its next appointment while computers impatiently glance at their watches, thinking I’ve got to find a way to get their more quickly.

Sorry. the middle east thinks more slowly … but also more deliberately!

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“And why did you write that book?”
Authors hear that question everyday. “What’s hidden within the folds of the story? What secrets created the tale you’re 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.

Hope you like them.


Just released on Nook and Kindle as well as in ebook form, The Assassins grew out of time I spent in Russia back in the ‘80s. The Soviet Union was certainly waning and change was in the air. Later, I saw a picture of Vladimir Putin dressed as a tourists taking a picture of Ronald Regan on visit to Russia. Clearly, Putin standing there with his little camera looked like any tourists, happening on to an important state visitor. Obviously, he was not.

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            Before dawn, gunmen walked into a Damascus apartment complex in the suburb of Jaramana and found their way to the fifth floor. Once they located the right unit, they banged on door. The door opened slowly. A dozy occupant stuck his head around the corner. Gunfire echoed across the complex. The police commander living in the apartment had been fighting the resistance. Before he could speak, the resistance gunmen shot him to death and fled.

Local observers now report opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad appear to be assassinating loyalist military officers in an attempt to bring down the government. Ten senior officers, including several generals, have been gunned down in the past three months. No one can determine if the slayings are carried out by rogue elements or are a rebel strategy.

At the same time, the U.N.’s political chief noted the Syrian government has failed to implement any aspect of the peace plan Assad said they had accepted. Political chief B. Lynn Pascoe reported to the Security Council that the Syrian government remains at war. To punish the people of Hama for welcoming U.N. monitors,  government troop drove through neighborhoods firing automatic weapons and killing at least 32 people.

During the week of April 22, France raised the prospect of their military intervention in the Syrian crises. The French asserted that harsher measures should be considered as it appears the U.N. peace plan is on the verge of collapse. The problem remains that any military action proposed through the U.N. will be blocked by Russia and China. (This issue was discussed in a previous blog). At the same time, Western forces appear to not want to enter another Middle Eastern turmoil. The result? Stalement.

Some years ago, I visited the United Nations offices in New York City and had a guided tour through the facility. During the visit, I heard lectures on what the U.N. had been trying to accomplish. No one can doubt the value of an international center where nations can negotiate before wars begins. In addition, U.N. cultural and social departments have addressed and fought suffering around the world.

As the same time, the U.N. looks inept when it comes to stopping the collision of national interests that support on-going wars. The ultimate question about the viability of creating an organization with the power to impose its will on any state remains unanswered. Arguments abound for why world governments are not ready to accept such an international force. On the other hand, countries like Syria can continue wanton killing without fear of intervention. Good will and the desire for peace are abstractions that don’t stop killing. The quagmire remains. How can an international organization stop war when it lacks the cooperation of its members to support these efforts?

While the question goes unanswered, Bashar Assad’s government continues killing all who stand in their way. Is this anyway to run the world?


Question: What should America do to stop the crisis in Syria? Should troops be sent.

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            I find a heavy dose of adolescent repetitiousness about the Syrian situation. The world comes along like a big daddy and says, “Stop it! Stop the fighting!” Like an exposed 13year old, Bashar Assad and his brother Maher, the enforcer, respond, “Ah, gee. I’m sorry. We’ll stop.” As soon as dad is out of sight, the killing begins all over again.

It hasn’t stopped.

When a team of U.N. observers initially drove into a suburb of Damascus, protestors showed up. The U.N. team’s purpose was to monitor the shaky cease-fire. Their objective had been to pave the way for other U.N. personnel to arrive for reinforcement of the international community’s desire to bring an end to the 13 month deadly conflict in Syria.

Syrian troops responded by firing on the demonstrators.  At least eight people were wounded. Of course, the explosion of conflict the moment observers arrived could only make matters worse.

The United Nations has its hands full with the unwieldy violence that never ceases. Here’s another example. When the U.N. team made an unannounced visit to the Damascus suburb of Arbeen, a local activist said residents guessed they were coming because military tanks parked throughout Arbeen withdrew just before the U.N. teams arrival. Syria’s military haven’t stopped playing the “cat and mouse” game.

When the U.N. car arrived, local residents emerged waving signs and protesting the Assad regime. A local activist (his identity remains anonymous to protect the man from retribution)  reported hundreds of demonstrators crowded around three U.N. Land Cruisers shouting and protesting against the government. One local citizen standing in the back of a pickup led the crowd in singing, “Bashar, Bashar, we will not kneel.” Another handwritten sign taped to one of the cars read, “The murderer keeps killing, the observers keep observing, and the people keep up the revolution.” A video of the scene showed protesters walking down the boulevard and surrounding the car just as a boom exploded. Smoke filled the air and the UN vehicle sped away with the sirens blaring. After the U.N. team fled, government security cars drove through the area firing indiscriminately. An observer reported 20 people had been injured.

Reports of refugees fleeing in to Turkey report that Bashar Assad is attempting to stamp out as much resistance as possible before a U.N. brokered cease-fire is fully in place. In the villages of Taftanaz and Killi, a photograph given to the Associated Press by the resistance showed a dozen corpses wrapped in blankets sitting in a mass grave site in Taftanaz.

Because Syria borders five other nations and has close ties with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the country remains a vital geopolitical linchpin. Fighting jeopardizes each of these countries. Observers believe Assad continues to play for time. The battles continue.

Will they stop? Not soon.
Question: How can any government trust the Assad government again?

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