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BLOG 363 September 4, 2017

            Americans have an interesting habit of listening intently to a crisis, getting highly upset, and then in a few days forgetting all about it. Right now the disaster in Houston is on everyone’s mind. Give it a week or so and we go on to the next issue and leave Houston underwater.

Currently, the nation’s media appears to be doing so with the civil war in Syria. Not much as appeared lately, but the wheels of destruction continue to grind away in that war torn land. One of the major mistakes of the Obama Era was drawing red lines and then doing nothing when the Assad regime crossed them. Trump fired a few rockets and then went back to the latest debacle created by his administration. Without a sustained American policy and plan, the people fighting in Syria struggle on often when there is no hope in sight.

Wendy Pearlman’s book We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled, chronicles the Syrian lives that are struggling to survive. A professor of politics at Northwestern University, Pearlman speaks fluent Arabic, and has traveled extensively through the area collecting stories of what happened to the citizens. A doctor told her about the unconventional method they discovered to deal with tear gas victims. They pour cola on their faces and that counters the effects of the gas.
Amin, a physical therapist, shared how they evade security forces who dial them through the cell phones captured from people they trapped. After killing them, they dial numbers on their cells to find their next victims. Amin said they don’t delete the original phone numbers but change the name to Martyr. When a call comes in on the deceased phone, they know it’s the regime. When he opened his contact list, it was all Martyr, Martyr, Martyr.

Syria created the “weaponization of health care” as the government with more than 800 medical workers killed in hundreds of attacks. Doctors were arrested for treating injured protestors while medical supplies were withheld from besieged areas. Inhumanity continues to rule supreme.

The continuing refugee crisis remains one of the biggest challenges in memory. European countries still struggle to know how to deal with immigrate populations that swamp their cities. Syrian populations continue to attempt to get out of the country. The Geneva Convention on protecting civilians in wartime was never consistently enforced and is now openly flouted. The Syrian crisis is currently pushing the world toward nationalism and the rise of the security state. The world seems awash in chaos and uncertainty more so than at any time since the end of the cold war.

The Syrian war goes on and the whole world pays the price. The old adage, “Lord help us,” certainly applies.

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September 4, 2017 · 2:06 pm


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 357 July 17, 2017

            Taking a breather from the turmoil of politics and war in the Middle East, a little side trip through the archaeological discoveries of recent days can prove interesting. Interest in archaeology was piqued many years ago with the discovery of the Qumran Dead Sea Scroll. Decades ago, I met Khalil Eskander Shahin, called Kando, the middle man, in the sale of this find at a shop he ran in what is today East Jerusalem. One of the clay jars was on display in his souvenir shop. I vividly remember standing in awe, staring at this clay vessel that went back beyond 2,000 years, and housing the priceless finds once hidden inside this container.

Archaeological finds put us in touch with the past like little else. They bring the stories of history books to life. We wonder what famous person from the past must have touched the same object we are looking at.

Here’s several recent finds you will find significant.

Reaching w-a-a-y back in time, Israeli researchers have just discovered that the land was inhabited by Neanderthals over 60,000 years ago. Contrary to previous opinion, they did not live in caves and weren’t really cavemen at all. Not that some did not live in caves, but the conclusion is now considered an overstatement because they lived in the open fields around what is today the Ein-Qashsish area on the bands of the Kishon River in northern Israel. The remains of a Neanderthal from between 15 to 22 years of age revealed he suffered an injury that caused limping.

On another trail, researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered a ground-breaking discovery  on the back of a pottery shard that dates back to 600 BCE, the eve of the Kingdom of Judah’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. The inscription begins with a blessing by Yahweh and then discusses money transfers. The original vessel came from a military outpost and fortress at the Southern border of the ancient Kingdom of Judah probably populated by 20 to 30 soldiers. The use of contemporary multi-spectral imaging techniques has opened to new fields of discovery. More insights will be forthcoming.

From a different front, on the eve of the jubilee commemoration of the Six Day War, (see Blog 356), the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled relics from the battle for Jerusalem on the eve of the Second Temple destruction 2,000 years ago. Stone ballista balls and well-preserved arrowheads had been uncovered. These finds came from the last battle between the Romans and the Jewish rebels. The final showdown was recorded by historian Flavius Josephus. These artifacts and additional discoveries came from what was once a main street in the Second Temple period and will provide new information and insights on how the Old City was structured.

Another discovery in a cave on the cliff west of Qumran has revealed additional pottery shards, fragments of rope, and olive and date pits, but no more biblical scrolls were found. However, an ancient scroll was uncovered, but it had nothing on it and the parchment was completely blank. The empty scroll currently remains a mystery and puzzle to be solved. Surely, more will be discovered.

Stay tuned. More to come.

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July 17, 2017 · 9:37 am