Category Archives: World


BLOG 451
November 18, 2019



Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.


Two issues dominate public opinion.

Israelis don’t want a third election. They hope Benny Gantz and the Blue and White alliance can form a government before the deadline shuts them down. In general, the public doesn’t want the ultra-Orthodox groups in office. Of course, these extremists have been significant in Netanyahu’s coalition that kept him in power.

One of the country’s important leaders, Avigdor Liberman declared that Gantz must accept President Rivlin’s plan that included a join Prime Ministry led government including a leave of absence for Netanyahu because of bribery charges and that he gives up the ultra-Orthodox bloc. So far, Netanyahu has refused to abandon the religious oriented bloc. Liberman’s refusal to participate in a right-wing government led to the dissolution of parliament and resulting new elections that followed.

What a mess.

The second problem is wide-spread concern because of the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from the Syrian border in an arbitrary decision by President Donald Trump. Israelis are highly aware that Christian and Muslim Kurds are running for their lives because they fear persecution by the Turkish-backed army. These people know well about the genocide Turkey visited on their people in 1915. In a similar vein, the Turks murdered 1.5 million Armenians. Today’s Kurdish survivors know well that they cannot trust the politicians. Both The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel report Israeli concern because they know a vacuum in the Middle East will be quickly filled by a country like Russia. Moreover, the arbitrary abandonment of the Kurds means that the current USA government could just as easily drop its relationship with other governments like Arabia and Egypt … and of course with Israel. However, Israelis have an even more immediate urgent worry. They fear that Trump’s action will be part of paving the way for Iran to come charging in for a deeper and mover permanent relationship with Syria’s Bashar Assad moving Iran ever closer to Israel’s borders. Because Iran has declared even intent of destroying Israel, the citizenry must be ever wary of such Iranian moves.

The local press reports that Israeli government officials privately view Trump’s actions as “a colossal and dangerous mistake.”

Where is it all going? Many indicators suggest a third election is probable whether the public approves or not. And the situation in Syria? Keep your guns loaded!

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under America, Christians, Israel, middle east, Syria, Trump, World


BLOG 448
October 21, 2019

fake news


Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.


This past week America seriously demolished its leadership role in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump’s newly announced withdrawal of nearly all US troops from northern Syria has cemented Russia’s status as the predominant global military power actively engaged in the Middle East. This week, Russian troops arrived at military bases in northern Syria that the American army had hastily left just days earlier, in what can be regarded as both a literal and figurative handover of regional leadership and authority.

My opinion? No, this come straight out of The Times of Israel newspaper!

Many officials in Jerusalem are deeply worried about being abandoned by their superpower ally, as the American decision to gradually disengage from this part of the world which started under former US president Barack Obama when he drew a red line and then demonstrated that he didn’t mean what he said. The follow-up acts by Trump threaten to embolden Israel’s enemies: Iran and its allies and proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

What does Russia’s takeover really mean for Israel? Some analysts are deeply concerned, fretting about the possibility that Moscow could use surface-to-air missiles against Israeli jets attacking Iranian targets in Syria, which would effectively end Jerusalem’s campaign against Tehran’s establishment of a military foothold near Israel’s border.

Amos Yadlin, the head of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times of Israel he counts eight main reasons that motivated Russian President Vladimir Putin to get involved in the Middle East:

1.To Make Russia Great Again;

2. To again become an influential power, after the US kept it out of Egypt (1973), Iraq (2003), Libya (2011) and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process;

3. To reduce the influence of the United States;

4. To play Middle Eastern cards in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine;

5. To control ports and air bases, something the tsars dreamed of;

6. To try out weapons developed by Russia in the past decade;

7. To save Syria’s Bashar Assad — and show the world that Russians don’t throw
their allies under the bus.

8. To fight jihadists — in Syria and not in the Caucasus.

Sound scary? Ask the Kurds who were abandoned this week and without the American cover who have been slaughtered by the Turks. Today the media inside Israel is telling the story. Israelis are genuinely worried. Even stupid decisions can have serious consequences.

You might find my collection of Holy Land experiences to be helpful.
BIBLE LANDS: An illustrated Guide to Scriptural Places
Barbpir books Publishers

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Filed under America, Israel, Syria, Turkey, United States History, Violence, War, World


BLOG 440
August 18, 2019

putins eyes


Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.


When asked why he trusted Vladimir Putin, George Bush said that he looked into his eyes and saw his soul. Probably the worst political statement ever made. If he’d looked again, he would have seen KGB beaming up from the depths of a cold soul. That’s the opinion of author Douglas E. Schoen in his just published book, Putin On the March, The Russian President’s Global Advance. (That’s my opinion also.)

Schoen advances insight into how Russia involved itself in Syria during the Civil War and is now aligned with Iran. Anyone interested in the future of the Middle East will do well to pay attention to Douglas Schoen’s insights.

Putin is different from ideological Communist rulers like a Lenin, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev. Rather, he is far more like Russian nationalists like Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Schoen calls Putin a neo-Czarist. Having just completed a sixteen-session study of Russian history, I appreciate Schoen’s distinction. Putin typically functions like those Czarists of the past. He is a Russian opportunist down to his toenails.

An example of ignoring this mentality is one of President Obama’s worst mistakes. After threatening Syria for use of chemical weapons on its own people, when they did it again, Obama did nothing. He turned to Putin for assistance like talking to a friend. Putin promptly took Crimea, attacked the Ukraine and surged ahead in Syria. Putin saw an opportunity and seized the moment. Obama was left scratching his head.

Schoen strongly disagrees with President Trump’s approach to Putin, seeing the same naivete. When Trump joked with Putin about “not interfering” in our next election, the joke was on Trump.  Schoen believes America and its European allies must wage counter-cyber warfare against Putin. He will not retreat from Russia’s aggressive moves in the Middle East unless confronted with consequences. Left unchecked,  Schoen believes there is no limit to what Putin will attempt.

In recent blogs, I have detailed how Russian intervention increased the chaos and fighting in Syria. Assad would have fallen long ago if Putin hadn’t propped him up. The current conflict in Iran may well become another showcase.

What hope is there? Schoen believes it could come from the “better soul” of the Russian people themselves. Such was expressed in the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. Solzhenitsyn displayed the same in The Gulag Archipelago. The West should support and encourage these impulses in the days ahead. Needless to say, treating Putting like a “buddy” only opens the door to more serious consequences.

Anyone concerned for peace in the Middle East needs to listen and read Douglas Schoen.

You might find my book on near-death experiences important for you:
Revell books

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Filed under America, Russia, Trump, World


BLOG 437
July 22, 2019



Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.


Tensions between Israelis and the Palestinians is easy to understand. The Palestinians say you took our land. Israelis say you left when the Arab world tried to annihilated us in 1948 immediately after we declared independence. You left; we stayed. And so the arguments goes on and on.

Because of the Holocaust, Israelis have been particularly sensitive about inclusion and racial conflict. They have always stood for tolerance. Jewish groups in the United States have been outspoken on this problem.

However, the Intifadas unleashed on Israeli citizens have only increased Jewish hatred for the Palestinians. Bombings in public buses have been curtailed with the building of the wall around Israel, but the most recent knife attacks on citizens only deepened distrust, fear, and hatred. When I was in Israel a few months ago, I witnessed an increase in prejudice and distrust of Palestinians. The tension is high.

Now add the complaint of the Ethiopians. On June 30, an unarmed Ethiopian young man was shot and killed by the police. Across the entire country protests rang out, forcing a national reckoning with how the blacks are treated in Israel, especially by the police. The country came to a standstill with protesters blocking roads and highways.

“The man is a murderer,” said Tekah’s father about the policeman who shot his son. “How did he kill my son in cold blood? He was a child.”

A tiny minority of 100,000 in a country of 9 million, the killing of 18-year old Solomon Tekah has emboldened the black community to speak out. You don’t have to talk to many blacks to hear stories of abuse by the police. One black said, “They know we don’t have money for lawyers. They know we can’t defend ourselves.” Israeli officials acknowledge a longstanding problem of aggressive tactics in response to minor violations. The police acknowledge the problem.

“We came (to Israel) because of Zionism, this is also our country, we are soldiers and police officers and we never killed anyone in cold blood,” Tekah said. “We demand that justice and the law are done.”

The Ethiopians are Jews that trace their roots back to the tribe of Dan and were flown into Israel by El Al when the government created Aliya by also gathering in Jews from Russia. They practice a form of Judaism that dates back to the first Temple destroyed 2,500 years ago.

In contrast. Israeli newspapers such as The Times of Israel condemned President Trump’s racist attacks on Democratic congresswomen. Yossi Beiln, a former justice minister, and Ayman Odeh, a politician, noted Trump’s family came from German only a generation back in 1885.

Yossi Beilin lamented Trump’s decision to “bring Israel into this matter,” arguing that it will cause considerable damage to the historically bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

Racism is troubling. Not only for Israel, but the entire world needs to take a second look at how people with differences are treated.

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BLOG 432
June 17, 2019



Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., 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.


Is the United States getting ready to go to war with Iran? Sounds like it.

Isn’t it amazing how often the Middle East pops up out of nowhere and dominates the headlines? Here we are again with battleships steaming toward the Straits of Hormuz and threats being shouted across the bow. Is war really on the horizon?

Recognizing that President Donald Trump is as predictable as a charging rhino and that he is willing to take rash actions to divert attention from his troubles at home makes predicting his responses unpredictable. At this point the idea of impeachment is more that idle talk. Consequently, the recent attacks on oil tankers raises important questions about what comes next.

However, the experts are not predicting a war. H.R. McMaster recently told The Jerusalem Post, “There are two ways of fighting America. One is symmetrically and the other is stupid.” He believes that the only way a country like Iran can fight America is through terrorism and insurgency.

Iran can huff and puff, but they know they can’t square off against the United States. For one thing, their current economy is in shambles. Secondly, the Sunni Saudis are standing at their borders with their guns raised and aimed at the Iranian Shi’ite. Not a good position to be in!

The Iranian Air Force relies heavily on jets sold to them by President Nixon and they now lack spare parts. Consequently, the American Air Force is in a position to overpower their air force, destroy their air fields, and do so at a minimal cost to American lives.

Probably that fleet of American battleships came sailing in more to send a message than start a fight.

American sanctions are breaking their back. The better option is to sit down and hammer out a new nuclear agreement that keeps everyone happy. The best option for them may well be to come out with new negotiations that insure their survival. A little cup of something is much better than a whole bucket of nothing.

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Filed under America, Iran, middle east, War, World


Today and on Tuesday, American diplomats will meet with the Iranian delegation hoping to advance the stalled nuclear talks. In previous negotiations, the question of what capacity Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium halted forward progress. The time has come to get off high center and make more progress.

Talks last November let to a temporary freeze on much of Iran’s nuclear endeavors.  The world was enthusiastic and relieved at what appeared to be a retreat from possible war. The West temporarily lifted sanctions and the new President Hassan Rouhani looked like a hero to all but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Now the tensions are beginning to rise again. While American is holding out a “carrot on a stick,” recent statements of Secretary of State John Kerry seem to indicate the United States has not backed away from the possibility of re-instituting  sanctions if Iran refuses to go forward.

In an unclear and undefined situation, Iran will talk with Americans in Geneva and then go to Rome for talks with Russians. Obviously, the Iranians are trying to work both sides of the fence.

At this point, America appears willing to allow Iran to have the ability to enrich uranium if they will limit programs that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. Not convinced of how this alterative will work out, the Israelis maintain a right to make a pre-emptive strike if Iran doesn’t back away.

Behind the scenes, Iran has its own set of struggles that have a direct bearing on what they may be willing to do. They are facing a severe population decrease that could be devastating to their country. The June 8 edition of The New York Times ran a front page story detailing how young couples are backing away from having children because of the deteriorating economic conditions and their fear of where the government may be going. Speaking anonymously, a young couple openly confessed their doubts about the turmoil within the country. The wife admitted to having two abortions (illegal in Iran) to avoid children.

Seventy percent of the 77 million population are under the age of 35. The reproductive aged citizens simply don’t trust the future under the current regime. When asked why, they offer clear cut concerns: an intrusive government, conservative ideology, a poor economy, and finally political instability. Enough said?

During his term as president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only fanned the flames. The far right applauded him; the group under age 35 looked for ways to get out of the country.

Young couples struggle to find housing and that situation is not improving. If Iran doesn’t come to a solution and the West once again clamps down on their economy, the ayatollah’s may find that the radical reaction of the young could topple their leadership.

The Iranians are highly aware of their dilemma. Let’s see what they do.

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            One of the most poignant books of recent years was Tatiana De Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key. The movie version cut like a scalpel, revealing the events of July 16, 1942 when the French police herded every Jew they could find into Velodrome d’Hiver and later shipped them off to death camps. Sarah’s Key is the story of one who escaped and how her life unfolded decades later. The story is a gripping depictions of anti-Semitism.          Seventy years later prejudice has not subsided.

Noted scholar Alvin H. Rosenfeld recently spoke at the University of Oklahoma about the continuing struggle. Rosenfeld is professor of Jewish Studies at Indiana University as well as the author numerous books and articles. He detailed:

«  The FBI thwarting several Muslim converts attempt to bomb two Jewish synagogues in New York,

«  An 88-year old white supremacist and Holocaust denier killing a security guard at

the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2000,

«  Jewish hatred being globalized across the world through the Internet by  the pressing of a computer key.

Rosenfeld’s list goes one and on. Today we face escalating European anti-Semitic hate crimes, terrorism, and attempts to criminalize Jewish religious rites that have been practiced for thousands of years. In Cologne, Germany a judge declared circumcision illegal and brought charges against a rabbi for performing a bries, a circumcision, on an infant. In Toulouse, France three children and their rabbi were shot while anti-Semitic attacks rose 40% in France. Even the American Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) voted to boycott Israeli products from “Palestinian Land” even though there is no Palestinian state with defined borders.

The left-wing in Europe continues to characterize Israel as an imperialist power in the on-going struggle with the Palestinians. Philosopher and author John Paul Sartre described the conflict not to be between Jews and Palestinians but those advocating peace on both side and their rejectionists. He understood that Europe’s left-wing always ignored and failed to comprehend this fact.

To hopefully reverse this tide of hate, the City Council of Paris will commemorate the Velodrome d’Hiver event and the young Parisian victims among the 1,500,000 children exterminated by the Nazis. A few of the children came from substantial income homes, but the majority were from modest backgrounds. The mayor of Paris noted in opening the exhibition that half of the Jewish children deported from France were Parisian. The fact is that only 200 came back. The mayor concluded his remarks by saying they wished to honor the memories of these children.

The children who survived in France were hidden by righteous gentiles. The separation from their parents, changing of identities, being brought up outside of their faith, and living in fear took an overwhelming toll. By 1945, there were 10,000 Jewish orphans in France who could not find their parents. The cost of anti-Semitism continues with many of them to this day.

We do well to remember this history lest it be repeated. We cannot allow the assaults of prejudice against any race, any religion, any nation to go unchallenged. The path to a better future leads through a briar patch of angry words and aggressive actions that must be countered by resistance.

Sarah’s Key reminds us that this very hour is the time to make a difference. 

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Filed under History, Judism, Violence, World


Please forgive my being dilatory in responding to blogs. Unfortunately, I caught a “bug” coming back from California. Nothing like a little virus to slow the train down. BUT now I’m back in gear and rolling once more. In the interim, we’ve had an interesting shift in power in the Middle East. President Mohamed Morsi has definitely become the new pharaoh of Egypt.

In past blogs, I put my money on the military to prevail. Bullets seemed to be stronger than boys with rocks. It now appears I misjudged. While it is hard to know why this shift occurred because the information is kept behind closed doors, probably the logic went something like this. The election was close, but everyone (with the exception of the Coptic Christians) is a Muslim and nothing is gained by having to fire on them. Morsi has turned out to be a guy who isn’t fooling around. Got to take him seriously. He may be the best choice Egypt gets. The generals decided to take him seriously. Moreover, the recent election seemed to suggest that the people wanted the generals out of politics. If that is correct, then the military had to back out or become a South American military junta. The result was Morsi now prevails. Of course, the current trend in the Middle East is toward the more radical wing of Islam. Probably, the answer was blowing in the wind.

President Morsi made a shrewd move in putting Washington on the defensive. Rather than allow Egyptians to take the blame for the embassy attack, he insisted Washington must show new respect for Muslim values and help build a Palestinian state. We are pouring billions into Egypt every year and he’s telling us to “give a little respect?” Afraid that’s the situation.

How do we decipher these actions? Because America is a pluralistic society, we have a hard time understanding theocratic cultures. As far as Morsi sees the world, there’s one way that is right and the rest of the planet is wrong. Morsi made it clear this week that Egypt intends to follow the principles of Islamic law. The president dismissed the idea that Egypt can be judged by any other standard than the ones Egyptians accept for themselves. He has said that neither a woman nor a Christian would be a suitable president of Egypt. In making these statements, Morse also made it clear that the new government will stand with the Palestinians … regardless.

America is now adjusting to the new reality with caution. President Obama described Egypt not as an ally. Avoiding using the word “enemy,” both Obama and Morsi recognized the world of Mubarak was gone.

Morsi had been a graduate student at the University of Southern California and knows America He had been troubled by the street violence in Los Angeles and dismayed by the looser sexual mores he found in America. Morsi didn’t approve of the “naked restaurants” with waitresses in skimpy costumes. Consequently, he is definitely not enthralled with the West.

Obviously, the current American election has made it clear that the USA stands resolutely with Israel. Israeli rhetoric aside, the Netanyahu government isn’t given any ground to the Palestinians. What does it mean?
Some tough days lay ahead.

Question: What adjustments must America make to have satisfactory relations with Egypt?

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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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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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