Tag Archives: Jerusalem’s old city


BLOG 362 August 28, 2017

            Hey!  I’m back from Alaska. My trip took me up to the edge of the Arctic Circle and through Denali National Park. Beautiful beyond expression! I saw bears, caribou, and even wolves. It’s hard to believe, but in about 20 days the hotels and tourist sites shut down for winter which lasts until May.  I’d love to tell you all about the experience, but this blog is about the Middle East, not the Northern Frontier. So, lets’ hop across the globe and check in on what’s happening lately.

Two items that won’t make your local newspaper are worth noting.

Recent archeological digs at Beit Habek have recently uncovered the lost city of Julias believed to be the birthplace of the Apostle’s Andrew, Philip, and Peter. In the Upper Jordan Valley near a delta entering Lake Kinneret or the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archeology made the amazing discovery. The ancient site of Julias or Bethsaida is mentioned in the New Testament, but the exact location has been debated. More authentication is yet to come, but a silver coin from the period of Emperor Nero was uncovered. In addition, coins from the first to third centuries turned up. Anyone interested in the archeology of ancient Israel will find this new discovery to be significant.

The second story comes to us from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Long recognized as operating with a decidedly anti-Semitic bent, they’ve done it again. In 1982, UNESCO suggested Jerusalem’s Old City belonged to the Arabs even though the city has Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Jewish sections. They also stated that the Christian Church of the Nativity is a possession of Palestine. On July 7, 2017, in a secret ballot UNESCO recognized the Tomb of the Patriarch’s as part of the “State of Palestine.” Three countries objected, six abstained, and 21 approved. Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately called the vote and decision “delusional.”

Obviously, the Bible in Genesis 25:7-10 records the burial of Abraham and his family in Hebron in the cave of Machpelah. Since the days of King David B.C.E., Jews have lived there. Islam was not even created until the seventh century C.E.. The Six Day War brought the return of the Western Wall and the Tomb of the Patriarchs back under Israeli control after years of strife.

Because of the divisive decree by UNESCO, Prime Minister Netanyahu withdrew Israel’s $1 million a year funding to the United Nations and will use the money to build a museum of Jewish heritage in Hebron. Educational Minister Naftali Bennett said after the vote, “… time and again UNESCO denies history and distorts reality; knowingly serving those attempt to erase the Jewish state…” He noted Israel will not cooperate with UNESCO while it remains a political tool rather than a professional organization.

For decades, the United Nations has been losing ground with people who want it to succeed. I’ve been there and walked through their headquarters in New York City. They have a potential to accomplish many important objectives. The July 7 vote wasn’t one of them.







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August 28, 2017 · 9:08 pm


BLOG 356 July 10, 2017

            Tourists often assume there’s only one kind of Holy Trip – but in fact there are two very different ways to see Israel. Christians take the Jerusalem and Galilee routes that follow the travels of Jesus. On the other hand, Jews take a Hebrew Heritage tour that doesn’t touch the Christian sights, and gives a completely different picture. For example, in Tel Aviv, you sit in the chairs at Independence Hall just as they were in 1948 when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the rebirth of the ancient nation of Israel. The Museum of the Diaspora in the Tel Aviv University allows people to trace their Jewish heritage back for generations. Either tour is great, and together both give you the complete picture of Israel.

During the month of June, Israelis celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Six-Day War and considered the highly important steps forward that Israel took during the conflict. One of the most important events during that war was the battle of Ammunition Hill. A year ago, I climbed the hill and walked through the trenches that marked the turning point in the war. The decision to take the Old City was made immediately after this conflict.

Members of Battalion 66 of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade fought on Ammunition Hill in one of the bloodiest and most brutal campaigns of this war. In June, the surviving soldiers returned for a reunion at the sight.

The members of the battalion had expected to make their jump in the Sinai Peninsula, but at the last minute were diverted. They soon discovered more resistance from the Jordanians than anyone expected. Beginning at 2:30 in the night in complete darkness, the exploits of brave men unfolded quickly. One Israeli paratrooper threw himself on top of a grenade to save the men around him. When senior officers fell, junior officers picked up the baton and charged forward. These were ordinary men who did extraordinary thing for their brothers and country.

As the battle progressed, Israeli Intelligence proved to be completely inaccurate and there were two to three times more Jordanian soldiers than anyone expected. The Israelis pressed forward in the midst of terrible odds and endured.

On the morning after, a jeep appeared with Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman, chief of Military Operations, in the back seat. Telling Doron Mor, the battalion deputy commander, to lead or fight up the hill to Mount Scopus, the Jeep plowed up to the National Library and the leaders assembled on the roof. As they looked down on Jerusalem, the decision was made to enter the Old City. Since the days of King David Since no one had ever conquered Jerusalem from the Lion’s Gate in the east. “This will be the last time!” Moshe Dayan said.

The next day Israeli troops entered through the Lions Gate and after 2,000 years the Jews had taken their city back.

Should you take a tour of Israel, regardless of whether it is a Hebrew Heritage tour or a Christian excursion, be sure and tell your guide you want to walk through Ammunition Hill. It’s a sight you won’t forget.

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Filed under Bible Lands, Israel


BLOG 337 February 14, 2017

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            A young Arab boy was waiting at an intersection in Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem. Having sunk down behind the steering wheel of a beat-up sedan, he could barely see over the steering wheel. The boy stuck his arm out the window and signaled like an adult driver before zooming through. He could not have been more than 12-years old.

Unusual? Not in East Jerusalem where virtually no one cares. You can get away with almost anything you want. The struggle has become just that bad.

Westerners are more concerned with Israel and the Old City of Jerusalem and generally give little thought to the Palestinians on the other side, called East Jerusalem. Americans certainly know about the suicide bombers and terrorists who kill children. Those stories have been all over the media. However, there is another more human side to the Palestinian story and we should occasionally visit the deeply personal struggles of everyday citizens who live there and are not terrorist.

Of the 850,00 people living in Jerusalem, around 310,000 are Arabs, living in East Jerusalem with permanent residency but not citizenship in Israel. Apart from Arabs with Israeli citizenship or Arabs in the West Bank, life is far more complicated because they reside in a fragmented and politically tumultuous society. Most of these residents live in poverty and hopelessness. They endure daily discrimination everyday and poor public services across their part of the city. Currently, the rate of divorce and domestic violence against women and children is rising in East Jerusalem.

Hannah Hochner reported in Ma’ariv  that of this vastly Muslim population, 46% are under the age of 18, 37% unemployed, and 51% live below the poverty line. With such upheaval, these Arabs often feel they have nothing to lose in attacking Israelis. They now have a sense of deadlock following the election of Donald Trump with his talk of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian citizens are caught in a vice. If they make efforts to cooperate with Jerusalem, they would be recognizing and accepting what they call Israeli occupation. The West Bank would see them as collaborators and traitors. On the other hand, when they follow the local mukhtas, who have virtually no leadership capacities, they get nothing.

It’s ease to blame Israel for this dilemma, but that is far from realistic. Israel certainly has their share of responsibility. However, here’s another example of why conditions continue to deteriorate in East Jerusalem. When Yasser Arafat died, he left behind three billion dollars he had pocketed that belonged to the Palestinians. The current PA leadership of Mahmoud Abbas has not proven better as he lost all control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas. While the Arab leadership twiddled their thumbs, the Israelis have built their country into a showcase of the Middle East.

At this point, no one seems to know what will come next.  And that’s the problem!

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Filed under Israel, middle east, Palestinians


            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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Filed under Israel, middle east, Muslims, Syria, Uncategorized