Tag Archives: travel


BLOG 439
August 5, 2019

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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.


Periodically, I share the latest archaeological finds in Israel. (Makes a nice break from all the turmoil and fighting going on across the Middle East.) Moreover, the latest discoveries are always fascinating. Over the decades, I’ve watched many of these digs reveal the past in surprising ways. They always make us more aware of the importance of the past.

Remember the city of Ziklag? Probably not because the name is rather obscure. However, Ziklag was one of the places that David stayed when he was running from King Saul. A team from the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem turned up the ruins of Ziklag. Large stone structures characteristic of Philistine culture were turned up along with a significant number of vessels that reveal the biblical period. Bowls and jugs all reflect the period of King David. The Philistine name further supports the contention that the Philistines were not native to the area, but migrated from Europe.

All of which reflect new discoveries at the excavation of the Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon. The Book of Joshua identified five Philistine cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. The name Palestine came from this beginning and was first used by the Greeks. Dating of the bones reveals that the Philistines probably immigrated in the 12th century B.C.E.. Bone samples received DNA testing that also revealed ancestry from European population. Their dig continues offering new insights.

Jerusalem is once again offering more discoveries. A broken sewage pipe in 2004 in the Silwan neighborhood led to the discovery of a long, narrow staircase that connected the Pool of Siloam to the Temple. People would bathe in the pool before entering the Temple grounds. When I was there in February, this was being readied for opening to the public.

Archaeologists are calling the ancient street “the Pilgrimage Road.” They are convinced this was the path millions of Jews took three times a year when fulfilling the commandment to go up to the holy city and bring their sacrifices during Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Jesus would certainly have used this road in going up to the Second Temple.

Discovered in the dirt of this find was a cache of coins marked, “Free Zion.” This was the Jewish battle cry against the Romans. One archaeologist suggests they made coins instead of arrowheads because they knew they could not beat the Romans. However, the coins would be there for the people who would one day come back.

And so we have. We, too, can now walk this ancient path.

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Filed under archaeology, Palestinians, The Middle East



  “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!


            In The Assassins, Masha Khaykina enters the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, D.C., and begins a journey that will change her life. Perhaps, some readers of mysteries and murder novels will find this interjection of religion inappropriate. However, if one knows Russia, the combination of spies killing people and a Christian perspective will feel quite at home. Such is the way of Russia, a country that has lived through horrendous violence and loves poets.

It has been estimated that Stalin killed 20 million people during his purges. Another 20 million died during World War II before the country quite counting. All of this happened in the country that features the Bolshoi Ballet.

I discovered the power of their faith during a visit with the Metropolitan of Minsk. Because it was l985 and in the Soviet Union, the meeting was arranged in clandestine fashion. We came in one door and the Orthodox priest came in a back door. The encounter was in a winery with a large wine tasting back room. We sat on one side of the table and the Metropolitan sat on the other side. In his high black kamlavka or maitre, black cassock, with a heavy staff, he was most impressive.

The introductions were made and pleasantries exchanged. The Metropolitan quickly pushed us to the heart of the discussion. He wanted to know what we believed and what motivated us to come to Minsk. Were we truly men and women of peace? Did we really want to avoid a war with the Soviet Union?

Our responses assured him that we sought only the highest objectives. In turn, we pressed the priest to tell us how he had survived World War II, the political purges, and the struggles with Communism. To our surprise, the large man answered in a forthright and straightforward manner.

His story of endurance left us staggered and overwhelmed. We were listening to a man who had walked through hell and back. The Metropolitan had seen the worst violence a time of horrendous upheaval could produce. Living through nights of intense pain and fear, he had come out a man of peace and faith. His story left us unable to speak. None of us had ever experienced his world of struggle.

Finally, the Metropolitan asked us to sing an American hymn. We looked at each other in consternation. None of us were musicians and my singing is beyond terrible. Nevertheless, we decided a Negro spiritual would be an authentic expression of native American music. We launched into “Go Down Moses” sounding like Moses probably wouldn’t ever want to be coming back after that number.

Then, we asked the Metropolitan to sing. He suggested the Sanctus from the Mass would be best for him. Leaning back in his chair with his eyes turned upward toward heaven, he began singing in Russian. No one in our delegation understood the language, but our hearts melted as the transcendent, mysterious hymn literally took us out of the room to the feet of our Creator. The majestic sound transformed us into participants in eternity. We were left overwhelmed and awe-inspired.

The heavenly sound came from a man who had endured the worst the world had to offer.

Religion in Russia? Yeah, it will always be there regardless of Stalin, Putin, and whoever tries to repress faith. Masha’s experience with the icons is different from the American world, but so typical of Russia.

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