Photo: Ron Cantrell

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dome of the Rock - A Hijacked Church?

Muhammad’s hijacking of a Messiah from Jews and Christians seems not the only item hijacked by Islam.

Three years ago, I wrote the book, The Mahdi – Hijacked Messiah, to document Islam’s stealing of a Messiah concept by Muhammad.

Now, my participation on one of Israel’s most interesting archaeological excavations has revealed another major hostage taking by Islam.

Ramat Rachael’s archaeological area, where I’m working this August, takes in the ruins of an interesting church that sits right on the Road of the Patriarchs (now known as Hebron Road). The Kathisma Church is an octagonal structure, built in 456 A.D., which shape is unusual for a church as most are built in the shape of a cross. Sitting square in the center of the church’s octagonal perimeter is an outcropping of solid bedrock some 20 ft. square and several feet high.

The Kathisma Church is where tradition has it that on route to Bethlehem, Mary’s labor pains caused the couple to rest under the shade of a date palm. Joseph is unable to reach the ripe fruit so attractive to Mary, so the tree lowers its fruit to nourish the mother-to-be, and a spring issues forth from under the tree to save their lives in the desert.

Whether one believes the tradition about the church is immaterial. The fact that the tradition predates the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem is the point. The church has a mosaic floor commemorating the story with a date palm flanked by two smaller palms (either symbolizing Joseph and Mary, or the other two crosses on Calvary).

The hijacking of this church’s structure and symbolism is eye-opening. The Dome of the Rock which sits on the Temple Mount is built in the same architectural design, including the bedrock outcropping in the center and an identical date palm mosaic adorns the inside of the dome. As in the church, the date palm is flanked by two other palms. The date of the dome’s construction is 691 A.D., over 200 years later.

The early date of the church and the mosaic are confirmed by Israel’s Antiquities Authority after excavation in 1992. The widening of Hebron Road revealed the church and the dating of the structure brought new and puzzling comparisons to the Islamic structure on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Ron Cantrell

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cheers signal a "New Find"

Each day Kibbutz Ramat Rachel Archaeological excavation has delivered up new treasures for those of us digging there. Bad attitudes due to the “way too early” hour for beginning the dig fades as the first cheer of the day goes up from one of the dig areas. Each cheer means that at breakfast, news of the find that caused the cheer will be shared with all.

Digging begins at 5:30 am. Breakfast break is 9:00 am.
Though the Kibbutz and surrounding area now are known as Ramat Rachel, Jeremiah 41:17 reveals the name as "Chimham" near Bethlehem.

"And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt" (Jeremiah 41:17).

II Kings refers to the area as the "garden of Uzza:"

"And Manasseh slept with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza: and Amon his son reigned in his stead."
vs 26 "And he was buried in his sepulchre in the garden of Uzza; and Josiah
his son reigned in his stead" (II Kings 21:18).

Cheers from the last two days (week two of four) have been from three special yields.

1) A seal impression on pot handle resembling something between an "M" and an "X."

2). A crude ram’s head who’s purpose is yet to be decided by the archaeologists,

3) A great Byzantine oil lamp with a very clear Greek inscription.

This site will become a top tourist attraction as they are now adding walk ways and information signs in order to make a visit to the area a memorable learning experience.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Digging through the Bible

It has to be one of my favorite slices of Israel. On the south hill of Jerusalem, almost exactly between Jerusalem and Bethlehem lies a most interesting archaeological site, yet it is rarely visited by tourists.

I have been digging with the Tel Aviv University this week on their 2007 season. The hill’s height provides a 360 degree view of the saddle in the mountain ridge in which Jerusalem rests.

After a 40-year break in archaeological digging at Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem, the Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with Heidelberg University in Germany, is renewing exploration at the site. The work has continued exposing remnants of a king’s palace from the First Temple period and the hidden layers of 7th and 8th century B.C.E. In addition, it has explored the stratigraphic continuity of layers from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Abyssid periods.

One of my wild imaginations includes King Nebuchadnezzar and the possibility of his presence on this hill. The site may in fact have been an administration center for Babylon’s conquering hoards. Nebuchadnezzar came here to Israel three times. On his first visit, news arrived that Nabopolasar, his father, lay dying. He and a handful of his soldiers cut across from Lachish to Babylon rather than follow the Euphrates River back as was normal. The burning desert between Israel and Babylon could not support the needs of an army, but a few men with a guide could make the trip quickly.

Almost daily a cheer arises from one of the half dozen teams as they unearth a jar handle marked with a “lmlk” seal. “Le Melek” is the designation meaning for “For the King.” These special jars were taxation vessels and their contents were destined for the palace of the reigning king. These seals come in varying designs depending upon the period of their stamping.

Probably one of the most interesting finds this week is a top section of a Greek oil lamp bearing an acronym standing for “Jesus illuminates all men,” (photo above).
Each day uncovers new finds and each one seems more exciting than the day before. I’m thankful for the weekend break, but already day dreaming of the next find.

For a "Who's Who" of the archaeological excavation see this site:'s%20who.htm

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Israel Baseball League

THERE IS ACTUALLY FUN in the midst of the stresses of the Middle East. The fascination with baseball has been building in Israel for over two decades. Now, Israel is playing hard ball – literally. The newly formed Israel Baseball League is playing daily this ball season. They also boast an impressive website and lots of baseball paraphernalia. My favorite page is "Baseball in the time of our forefathers," a funny look at modern baseball with a biblical view.
Though I love baseball, I have not attended a major league baseball game for over 20 years. This week, my son treated me to a game for my birthday, a real father-son evening. Baseball here is a bit surreal. To arrive at the field, we had to travel through the Ayalon Valley - where the sun stood still for Joshua. The game was played in Gezer- one of the most important international cities of the ancient world and the gateway to the hill country of Israel. And now the battle is won by slugging the ball over the back fence!

The game began an hour before dusk. Uneventful in any country but Israel. As the sun approached the horizon, the sports announcer came across the PA system saying that a minion would be meeting behind the bleachers in a few minutes. A "minion" is at least ten Jewish men needed to officially pray the evening prayer. As the game continued on, prayers could be softly heard between strikes and balls. Even Orthodox Jews love baseball.

Israel’s league has some real gold, panned from U.S. Ball teams. The manager of the Modi'in Miracle team happens to be Art Shamsky, ball player for the New York Mets years ago. Taking advantage of the “ground-floor” inaugural season of the IBL, I requested a signed poster, baseball card, and hard ball, signed by Art - and received them all! More “ground-floor” fun for us was remaining behind after the game end and being asked by Modi'in Miracle team members to help set up the batting cage for the next day. In grateful thanks, they gave us a ride to Tel Aviv later that evening. My car was in the garage and we had really had to finagle to arrive from Jerusalem at rural Kibbutz Gezer where the game was played. Now my the only difficulty I have is to decide which team to favor. I am leaning toward the Modi'in Miracles.

Another surreal facet to Israeli baseball – the team who call Modi'in home – the city where those brave enough to resist the Syro-Greek Empire and save Judaism. Without that rebellion, Joseph and Mary would not have had Nazareth in which to play their roles in the redemption story.

Go Miracles!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Unraveling Sudan & Darfur

Israel is rescuing refugees from Sudan, housing and feeding them, and offering some of them jobs. These refugees have literally "walked" from Sudan across the wilderness of Egypt (top photo: Ron Cantrell), running across the border into Israel. The plight of the Sudanese refugees is straight out of the dust of history into our present times, and the State of Israel is to be commended for stepping up to the challenge they are facing.

Each refugee family have a horrific story to tell. Many of their personal tragedies have been featured on recent Israeli news broadcasts tearing at the compassionate hearts of Israeli's who are anxious to do their part to ease their suffering. A number of Israeli-based NGOs are hard at work to help the refugees.

(right) A beautiful Sudanese child separated in Egypt from her parents, rescued by the efforts of Israeli's, and reunited in Israel.

(left) Egyptian security guard on the Egyptian-Israeli border

It is difficult to understand all the dynamics of the Sudan situation, but learning the foundational roots of the conflict will help us to understand the present crisis. Movie moguls and authors have been educating us for years about the history of Sudan. It is simply hard to apply the education until something arrests the attention and the plight is brought into focus. Genocide in Sudan has done that. Although the problem in Sudan is not religious but ethnic it does have a religious element as well. Sorting things out is not easy.

Darfur is only half the Sudanese crisis.

A Look Back
Alan Moorehead, an Australian author living in Britain in the early 1900s, wrote two books on the subject: The White Nile and The Blue Nile (see "Ron Cantrell Bookstore" right column). Sudan is covered in The White Nile story. The sources of the Nile River lie deep in North Africa. The Blue Nile originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia while the White Nile originates in the Sudan.

Moorehead’s book The White Nile is a lively history of the Victorian search for the source of the river including the extraordinary tales of Richard Burton, John Speke, General Charles Gordon, as well as the famous meeting of Livingstone and Stanley, a classic, originally published in 1960. Vivid descriptions of Zanzibar, the last days of Khartoum and the building of the Suez Canal are the book's theme. The death of Sir Charles Gordon in Khartoum is described. Zanzibar, the island off the east coast of Africa, was the slave market of Muslims raping north African tribes for strong men and women to be sold for gold. Khartoum was the city of destiny for the slave trade. The market for slaves was not only Zanzibar, but a river ran west from Sudan to the coast where the New World could be stocked with kidnapped and enslaved Africans. Thus, the provision for America’s slavery tragedy.

Roots of Islamists in Africa
These are the root issues of what Sudan is today. The problems stem back centuries. They are ethnic in nature as Muslim Arabs have sought with violent determination to turn Sudan into an Arab Islamic nation. That makes both African Muslims (Darfur) and African Christians (south Sudan) fodder for the Arab Islamic killing machine. Therein lies the religious element.

Picking up on Alan Moorehead’s story, the English movie called the Four Feathers weaves a romantic period story set in the late 1800s. It is a platform upon which the viewer can become well acquainted with the historical issues. Mooreheads story in The White Nile provided the plot for the Four Feathers. The Islamic expectation of a messianic figure that would arrive on the scene at the end of time lies behind the movie. However, if you don’t know that Islam is expecting such a personage, the message escapes you. This Islamic-expected messiah is known as the Mahdi. A clue to the ethnic facet of Sudan lies in the character of Abu Fatma played by Djimon Hounsou in the Paramount film. Playing a black African Muslim, his plight was as tenuous as the British because he was African and not Arab.
Djimon Hounsou plays Abu Fatma who tries to help a renegade British soldier who has set out to warn his comrades of the Mahdi's intentions and war methods.

Chaos, Violence Heralds a Messiah
The heralding of this Islamic Mahdi is a growing concern since Iran’s President Ahmadinejad continues to make reference to his soon coming, declaring that the Mahdi's mission is to aright the world and make Islam the last standing religion. Evidently in the 1800s, an Arab named Abdul Muhammad declared himself to be the Mahdi and set in motion a diabolical plan of violence and chaos, recognized by Islamic theology as the signs following the messianic arrival. He slaughtered infidels, including Britain’s General Charles Gordon and all his men in Khartoum.

Today, Sudan’s capital city is still the launching pad for Arab Islamic genocide, both in Darfur and in south Sudan. Millions of innocent have been slaughtered to the point of survivors walking across burning deserts from southern Sudan to find freedom. Over 2,000 Sudanese refugees have made their way through Egypt and escaped across the Israeli borders.

A Refuge in Israel
Each day, more refugees from Darfur and southern Sudan run for the safety of Israel, dodging Egyptian bullets, confident that the Jewish State will treat them humanely. They are calling Israel their "last hope of refuge." In recent months, numbers of them have been housed and hired by an Eilat hotel chain. IDF soldiers and Israeli university students are the ones initially caring for the needs of the refugees as they come across the border and are relocated to communities in the Negev. Doctors from local hospitals are donating their services to treat the refugees for shock and other medical needs. Hotels, kibbutzim, and youth hostels are giving the families a place to rest as Israel considers a short term solution. They are anxious to find a safe resting place. We received a request from the Sudanese Christian refugees for Bibles through our adult children who live and work alongside them in Eilat. I recently made trips from Jerusalem there and brought Bibles to them. It broke my heart to hear one recipient tell us that the Bible was the best gift he had ever had . . . "much better than money." How much we take for granted.

Saving Darfur & the West
At present, we are working with Israeli's who want to bring comfort and relief to these who have suffered at the hands of Islamists in Sudan.

May our governments be bold with a unified strength to put an immediate end to the Islamic killing of the black Africans. May we in the West heed the lessons of history, and recognize the roots of regional conflicts (i.e., Kartoum) in order to understand the murderous violent eruptions of angry Muslims confronting us today.
View film we recently posted on YouTube:

Please consider making a donation for the Sudanese Refugees in Israel today. You can donate through our PayPal account (right column). As always, 100% goes to the refugees. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Israeli Concessions, Arab Rejections

ISRAEL, EGYPT, AND THE JORDANIANS have a keen understanding of ancient Middle East traditions that escape the West. Some traditions are quaint lending to the "land far, far away" feeling experienced by tourists that visit. Other traditions, however, cause wars.
The nations of the world have suffered disappointment after disappointment imagining with good intentions a Middle East peace solution. More than one U.S. President has had aspirations of being the leader that could quell regional tensions. Israeli concessions have been extensive during several administrations, only to be rejected outright by the Palestinians.

Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah hit the nail on the head in a famous speech caught in the documentary by Honest on the danger of militant Islam called Obsession. According to Nasrallah, the United States was responsible for the “unmarriageability” of Palestinian men. This accusation was masked by his normal screaming reactionary method of public address and easily overlooked or dismissed as absurd. However, it is the key to Middle East peace, asserting that regional peace is absolutely impossible without first removing Israel from the map.

Because of this tradition, Middle East peace will never happen.

Once A Palestinian Refugee
The problem centers around a Muslim Arab tradition regarding refugees. It answers why only displaced Palestinians have been relegated to poverty-stricken refugee camps for almost 60 years when other refugees of the world have been absorbed into host cultures. It centers around real estate holdings of Middle Eastern men. According to Islamic tradition, when a man is driven away from land given him by Allah, he is an outcast, unmarriageable, and this status is upon his children, and his children’s children permanently. The UNRWA supports this claim by clearly defining in their charter that descendants of Palestinian "refugees" remain refugees.

Under the Israeli administration of Ehud Barak, 92% of the West Bank, and up to 75% of the Old City of Jerusalem, including five Arab villages east of Jerusalem were offered to Yasser Arafat. The world caught its breath at the concession. Arafat found no problem in saying “No!” There was one small snag in the deliberations. It is known as the “Right of Return.” That clause means that Arabs who ran from their homes in Israel proper upon the radio urging from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan - who have been kept in refugee camps as pawns in this ancient chess game - would have the right to return to their properties in Israel proper. This would be above and beyond even the establishment of a Palestinian State. In effect, two Palestinian States would be in the making: The land Israel has been forced to give, e.g., Gaza and the West Bank, and the millions (according to Arafat’s calculations) who have been born to the 600,000 Arabs that fled in 1948.

Now, let’s leave the past in the past and consider Israel’s offer to Jordan this week. Israel stuck the idea of a Confederation consisting of the State of Jordan undergirding the future State of Palestine. Don’t forget that until the 1967 Six Day War, the West Bank was Jordan, not Palestine. King Abdullah’s reaction this week was caustic. “We reject the formula of confederation and federation and we believe that proposing this issue at this specific point in time is a conspiracy against both Palestine and Jordan!” The King added that he was "fed up talking about this issue.”

The United States think tanks have suggested that the idea of establishing a "federation" or "confederation" with Jordan was likely to be supported by a large number of Palestinians. Of course it would! Arafat declared Palestinian Statehood in Jordan in September 1970, and, voila! Black September. The late King Hussein’s reaction was massacre of his Palestinian population.

However, this move to create a confederacy would place the major problem of Palestinian holdings on King Abdullah’s plate. He then would be responsible to see to it that the “right of return” would be in any concessions that Israel would make.
If any tradition needs to be brought into the new millennium, it is this idea that a man is not a man without “his land.” A Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Edward Luttwak, in a recent article suggested to just “leave the Palestinians alone.” He believes they need to adopt "realistic solutions" and cease toying with "dreams" (this ancient tradition). And, says Luttwak, “if they do not help themselves, they will get nothing.”

The final piece of this complex puzzle has to do with borders and land. One need only to look at a map of the Middle East before the League of Nations took pen to paper after WWI. The demographics of the area was an empire known as the Ottoman Empire. The nations were created by the stroke of a pen to reward Arab clans that had aided the British in the conquest of the area from the Turks. Even the fledgling State of Palestine (the original name of the Jewish homeland) included in what is now Jordan. That gift was sliced to make way for Hussein who was to receive Lebanon, but an ugly uproar from France left him out. The solution was to cleave the Jewish State in half. Amazing that everyone was thrilled at that time with the Jewish land package. British papers widely published the back-slapping festivities at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. (Click below for a presentation of the history produced by

Names too should be considered. Arabs of this region rejected British attempts to label them "Palestinians." It was the Jewish people who referred to themselves as Palestinians. The first Jewish newspaper was in fact, The Palestine Post, now called The Jerusalem Post.

The next phase in this drama undoubtedly will be the Israeli approach to Egypt to take their place in this complex issue. After all, it was Egypt who broadcast to the Islamic world that they had taken Gaza and were headed to Tel Aviv in 1967. Although they were lying, it galvanized Syria and Jordan, moving them into a war against Israel in which they were embarrassingly defeated. Sinai fell to the Israeli’s, Jordan’s West Bank fell to the Israelis, Syria’s grip on the Golan Heights was ended.

Even now, concessions are still forth coming from Israel. And, once again as it was so aptly put by the Israeli Statesman Abba Eban, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

Politically Correct Shaving

Don't forget to shave!

In the wake of the bloody Gaza Hamas takeover, West Bank Hamas members are being attacked on the streets by civilians and arrested by Palestinian Autorities.

How could one spot a Hamas member? A full beard is the dead giveaway. Hamas members have decreed for the sake of their West Bank commrades that the beard is certainly a sign of a pious Muslim but it is not mandatory according to Islamic law. Therefore, to save their lives, shaving facial hair off has been deemed necessary by Hamas spiritual leadership.

Mohammad Abu Tir, second in leadership of Hamas sports a henna dyed bright red beard. He claims that the Prophet Muhammad dyed his beard red. Abu Tir's red face covering is safe. Undoubtedly he will stay where it is out of danger.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Apology To Israel In Order

THE MIDDLE EAST IS BURNING and Israel is not involved. In a perfect world, the United Nations General Assembly would be meeting to issue an international apology to Israel for years of accusations that they are the key instability factor in the area.

Count the conflicts presently raging: Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Iraq (Sunni vs Shi’ite), Afghanistan, Turkey (recent bombings). Then there are the potential hot-spots: Iran, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Kashmir. None of those are presently influenced by any Israeli action.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon surely evacuated Gaza to show the world the character of a people who have trained their children to hate, kill, and be martyrs for generations. Those children have matured and their training is flowering. Their rage is shocking the world as we see the images in Gaza right now. Had Sharon still been in office, I’m sure he would use Hamas and Fatah as an example that it is dangerous to make any more concessions, specifically, giving the Golan Heights to the Syrians.

Undoubtedly, the new State of Hamastan under Ismail Haniyeh will be short-lived. Rather than a state, Hamastan is a terror nest without the infrastructure needed to take their place among the nations. Having already been infiltrated by Hezbollah fighters arriving unnoticed under the smoke screen of Gaza’s constant chaos, Hezbollah will become the parasitic entity in Gaza as they have been in Lebanon. Hezbollah is not interested in Palestine and never has been. Syria and Iran count on Hezbollah to rake as much land and as many Arabs into a future Islamic State as they can, by any means possible.

The following phase of an international Islamic Empire will involve the presently quiet but worried nations of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Saudi Arabia’s militant Wahabis have plans for the Saudi Empire, and it is not more palaces – it is an Islamic State under Sharia Law. Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel which places them in the camp of the infidel. The Palestinian population in Jordan have been a quiet undercurrent since September of 1970 when Arafat declared Palestinian Statehood there. Black September ensued and a terror group was born that took the lives of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Egypt was the crucible in which the Muslim Brotherhood was forged in 1928. The Brotherhood is not getting weaker. The writings of its founders are still holy writ to radicals within the movement.

Pan-Arabism (the concept of a united Arab Empire under one leader), has given way to Pan-Islamism. It is no longer just Arabs, but all Muslims. The matrix of the movement was Iran in 1979 when spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched the Islamic Revolution. The movement galvanized militant Islam against all opposition, including Muslims that are not militant enough.

Herein lies the problem. The lack of a strong leadership who can judge which brand of Islam is the true and pure Islam makes every small faction the law unto themselves. If somehow all opposition could be removed from a worldwide Islamic Empire, it would not stop what we see daily in the news. Killing, terror attacks, and martyrdom would continue as in Iraq as rival Islamic factions would tear at each other. Where will it end?

Clear thinking is not only refreshing, it is redeeming. Winston Churchill was a clear thinker. Churchill always felt that because he failed at his mission, he was placed in the office as Prime Minister. He warned his government time and again about Nazism but his solutions were considered radical. Negotiations with liars was the downfall of Neville Chamberlain who imagined that he had forged “Peace in our Time” with Hitler.

A Churchill approach to radical Islam is to make it illegal. Today in Germany, Nazi demonstrations are illegal. Such activity will land you in jail. Even denying the Holocaust will land you in jail. Can we gather enough wits about us to begin to pass laws against radical Islam in our nations? We should be joined by moderate Muslims, if there are any. Driving the small Islamofacist cells out of Islamic communities in foreign nations will assure the security of those communities as well.

In the final analysis, because of international pressure, Israel pulled entirely out of Gaza in the summer of 2005. The world expected a peaceful Gaza as a result of no more "occupation." However, Israel knew from experience that peace would not be possible, and Israeli political analysts from the day military troops and Israeli citizens pulled out of the Gaza Strip forecast what we see today: chaos.

So, let the apologies begin. Israel, we beg your forgiveness.

Friday, May 25, 2007


The UNIFIL (the United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon) soldiers gesticulated obscenely at us as we slowed down at the Lebanon border. My jaw dropped. These were supposed to be "peace keeping forces." We had to pass through these blue beret-clad soldiers. Our Israeli license plate and armed soldier chaperone tagged us as having come into Lebanon from Israel. Though the hatred of the U.N. soldiers was a real shock, it wasn’t the first surprise of the day. Moshe, our armed chaperone had taken us to a Palestine refugee camp near Tyre where a U.N. aid truck was surrounded by angry Palestinian men shouting at the driver. These enemies of Israel treated Moshe, an Israeli soldier, as if he were their brother. “Moshe,” they said, “Please can’t you stop the U.N. from coming here? They are not bringing us anything . . . they are stealing what little we have.” Another shock was clever news editing to exaggerate damage from Israeli bomb strikes, to the point of photographing buildings that had been destroyed in Lebanon’s civil war years before. If one news source was reporting a bloody war, you can bet all the others had to trump the story because of expensive advertising time on prime-time news spots.

That was 1982 and three trips into Lebanon left me so angry at the media’s misinterpretation of what was happening there I left my family for a three-month speaking tour to Europe and the USA in an effort to tell my own photojournalist eye-witness account. We didn’t have the luxury of cyberspace then. The reality was that the UNIFIL soldiers reaction was merely the fruit of reporting that was viciously biased against Israel from almost every media source.

In the successive 25 years, it has come to be reality that any two people groups fighting almost anywhere in the Islamic world can be blamed on Israel. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora just addressed his nation regarding the Lebanese Army battering the Palestinian Refugee Camp near Tripoli. There, the "blame game" surfaced again. "Militants are the target, not our Palestinian friends," Siniora made clear. He ended his "state of the nation"-style speech bringing Israel into focus as the ultimate culprit in Lebanon’s troubles.

Don’t forget Siniora’s speech last year at the U.N. General Assembly. It was telling. Lebanon’s Prime Minister broke down in tears describing Hezbollah’s control over his country. The spectacle proved only one thing: Presidents don’t weep. Siniora’s break down meant he was not in control. However, in the end, in his frustration, the blame was thrown onto Israel. Logic fails here. Kidnapped soldiers, thousands of rockets launched by Hezbollah to which Israel responded to stop the volleys of bombs, and somehow, magically, they are at fault.

For the sake of clarity, let’s play along with the blame game for a moment. The reference is of course to the Palestinians "fleeing" their homeland because of the Israeli 1948 War of Independence. According to the blame game, their homeland from time immemorial, was lost. A pastoral Middle East had been "invaded" by non-Muslim interlopers who, on top of that insult, were Jews. Indeed the Arabs did flee, but the facts on the ground are not what they seem.

It is vital to note that the name "Palestine" was an insult to the Arabs of this region as early as 1936. Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, a noted Arab leader here addressed the British Peel Commission and told them just that. Abdul Hadi claimed even our Bibles were in error with maps labeled Palestine. "Foreign" to the Arabs was how he described the "Palestine" label.

It was only in 1964 that Arafat decided the term "Palestine" would work for him. Out of nothing came the myth of a Palestinian State. With the constant retelling of the story, and searching for shreds of evidence to support the myth, Palestine came into being.

The myth didn’t remain within the boundaries of Israel, however. By 1970, Arafat declared statehood in northern Jordan. It was the wrong place to put himself forward. The late King Hussein massacred Arafat’s followers in the month of September, termed thereafter "Black September" (I suggest the movie Munich). Fleeing into Lebanon, the new refugee population threw the delicate balance of Lebanon into a tailspin from which it has never recovered. Don’t forget that the West Bank was under the government of Jordan between 1948 and 1967 and it was never referred to as "Palestine," but rather, "Greater Jordan." Jordan was not interested in a Palestinian State.

The initial flight of the Arab population in 1948 happened at the demand of the surrounding Arab nations. The cry from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and others was for the Arabs to get out of the way so the Jews could be wiped out without danger to Arab populations. When the attacking nations failed to realize their goal of victory over the Jews, a refugee problem began that has not ended, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and other Arab states. Why? After all, almost a million Jews were forced out of Islamic Arab nations in retaliation for the ‘48 War. However, there are no Jewish refugee camps in Israel. All the hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been absorbed into the fabric of Israeli life. Conversely, Arab refugee camps have been kept in squalid refugee camps for political reasons. They have never been absorbed and fester in poverty to create a frustrated angry fighting force, in the hopes they will aim their violent rage at Israel.

The genie is now out of the bottle in Lebanon. The Lebanese Army are poised to eliminate the uprising within the Palestinian refugee camps. So, let’s keep the blame where it belongs. Surely, this situation will not just simmer. Hezbollah is out of the lime-light at this moment. That is definitely contrary to their M.O. Expect them to step up to the plate soon and take the spotlight. Likewise, Iran’s President has just issued a severe warning to Israel not to meddle in Lebanon this summer: ‘If this year you repeat the same mistake of the last year, the ocean of nations of the region will get angry and will cut [the] root of the Zionist regime from its stem . . ."

All this darkness, makes it easier to see the light clearly. If God was not for Israel with the horrible odds against them, they could never stand.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lebanon & Gaza : The Real Issues

Pan-Islam is the real undercurrent in the two civil wars now raging, one in Lebanon and the other in Gaza.

However, finally, there is clarity. The present conflicts have brought the hidden agenda out into the open. Gaza’s continual lobbing of Kassem rockets is merely a tool to keep Israel in the blame-game, and a smoke screen lest the truth be exposed. The conflict now raging in Lebanon is another example of a splintered Palestinian Islamic group within their "refugee" camp caught up in the power struggle detailed here.

Under the surface of the smoke and gunfire of both conflicts is the complex issue of control. Before Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini declared the Islamic Revolution’s intentions in 1979, Arab states imagined a powerful pan-Arabic Islamic entity that would rule the Middle East.

Khomeini’s bold move trumped pan-Arabism with pan-Islam. His Islamic Revolution, slow in getting started with Iranian students planting themselves in western Universities, is now shaking the foundations of the world. Pan-Islamic focus included all the world within the quest for an Islamic Empire upon which the sun would never set. Remaining only within the borders of Middle East would not be enough.

Pan-Arabism – the ideology that all Arab nations should unify for strength - wasn’t broad enough to serve Islam’s greater goals. Ayatollah Khomeini’s declarations that all the world must be conquered for Islam was published in great detail in the late 1970s. Iran’s programs to make that happen were also available to the public through a U.S. Congressional Task Force on Unconventional Warfare and Terrorism. Yosef Bodansky, former Director of that task force wrote a book called Target the West: Terrorism in the West Today (see booklink on this blog) which was published in 1993. In that book, two Iranian airports dedicated to flying large aircraft into tall buildings were exposed clearly. Fifteen years of research went into the congressional report that became that book. The book has been retitled, “Target the West.” The present conflicts stem from the problem that dogged pan-Arabism – namely, who will be the larger-than-life leader.

That same problem dogs Iran’s Islamic Revolution as it has spread to other countries. The splintering of Islam into Sunni and Shi’ite, countless militant groups, Iranian and Syrian supported revolutionary groups like Hezbollah, and Hamas guaranteed the present conflict, the only question was “when?" The world was shocked to learn that Hezbollah’s parasitic government forbade Lebanon’s military from entering its self-declared boundaries in Beirut. Hezbollah’s expansion became known only from Israel’s summer war in 2006.

The present conflict has now revealed that 12 Palestinian camps scattered throughout Lebanon have diplomatic immunity and its Arafat-founded PLO government system has also restricted Lebanon’s government from entering their confines. What kind of government allows such dangerous Fifth Column cells to grow up in its midst? However, exposing Lebanon’s weakness is not the issue. The issue is that this present conflict has exposed the Islamic Revolution. The fight for supremacy fuels Middle East conflicts from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, the Philippines, and every other Islamic hotspot.

The surface reason for Lebanon’s Tripoli conflict was simple: A bank robbery went wrong and Lebanese police entered a forbidden area to make arrests. Robbers lost their lives and the transgression of Lebanon’s police force drew ire from surrounding revolutionary cells (also constituting off-limits areas to Lebanon) who responded to their comrades in revolution. Thus, a veritable war has ensued the past 2 days between this virtually unknown Islamic group and the Lebanese army, such as not been seen in Lebanon in over 17 years. Likewise, Hamas and Fatah continue to battle for governing power in Gaza.

All the while, Israel suffers from the breeding grounds that are Gaza and Lebanon where Islamic intentions of the revolution are matured.

Few know that a message was posted to a password-protected jihadist forum as far back as November 29, 2006, containing an announcement by the Fatah al-Islam Movement, in which the group announces that it has split from the “apostate seculars” of the Palestinian Fatah party. Fatah al-Islam observes jihad as the only means of victory and liberation for the Palestinian people. Their message was distributed to the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli. Muslims are encouraged to join their ranks and training camps because victory requires the “complete effort” of the Muslim Nation (i.e., "The Empire of Pan-Islam"). The message also states: “Know that our goal is fighting the Jews and all who support them from the Zionist Crusaders of the West and liberating our sacred [land]. So get out of the way. Don’t be the first to defend them. We warn everyone who wants to hurt our movement, because by Allah we did not take this step but only wishing for martyrdom”.

According to media reports, two-hundred Arab militants arrived in Lebanon at a Palestinian refguee camp in the north, and joined the Fatah-Intifada movement. They soon announced their split, and are purportedly headed by Shaker Issa, a former Palestinian Fatah official who had previously been expelled from the group.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jerusalem Reunification Day

Just count the wars of Israel! In the 1930s Arabs began launching terror attacks against Jews to halt Jewish immigration. Many Jewish people were already seeing storm clouds on the horizon in Europe and fleeing to their restored homeland and imagined safety. Every decade since Israel has been attacked: 1947, 1948 (War of Independence), 1956 (Sinai Campaign), 1967 (Six Day War), 1973 (Yom Kippur War), 1982 (Operation Peace for the Galilee), and uprisings within Israel borders called Intifadas 1987-1992 and from 2000 to date. What nation on earth has suffered this manner of physical, emotional and political/diplomatic attack?

In 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution to divide the land into two nations – Palestine and Israel. The Jewish people said, “Yes” even though the resolution designated Jerusalem an international city to be administered by the U.N. Surprisingly however, Arabs voiced a resounding, “No!” Five months later, Arab intrigue, terror attacks, and a strongly encouraged evacuation of their own people (to keep them from being caught up in a massacre of the Jews), erupted into all-out war. Against terrible odds, with six Arab nations attacking, the modern nation of Israel was born.

Subsequent U.N. Resolutions regularly castigated Israel. Condemnations on every level were brought to the United Nations General Assembly. These condemnations were fueled by Arab nations now infected with the genocide virus through Haj Amin al-Husseini (Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti [supreme governor]), who interfaced in person with Hitler regarding the eradication of the Jews, not only of Europe, but also of the Middle East.

In both ‘47, and ‘67, Israel was attacked without provocation. On both occassions what one could only call divine intervention, Israel won military victories, recovered occupied land, and took her place on the world stage just short of a super power.

Yom Yerushalyaim, Jerusalem Reunification Day, is the celebration of the 1967 Six Day War and the victory that placed the Shomron (biblical name of the West Bank), the Sinai, Gaza, and Jerusalem back under the authority of the nation of Israel.

Yet, as I type this, Israel’s 40th anniversary of that war is almost overshadowed by an attack from Egypt. What do I mean? Actually we now have three nations in a tiny area in the Middle East – Gaza under Hamas; once seen by Egypt as Greater Egypt, now fed by terror cells coming from that impotent country. The West Bank under the Palestinian Authority; once seen by Jordan as Greater Jordan, now fighting for its life as the growing menace of Gaza/Egypt/Hamas matures to a potential worldwide danger, and Israel in the middle. Egypt is turning a blind eye to the arming of Hamas through their own borders.

However, in light of all this this week’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Yom Yerushalyaim was like none I have ever seen. The West’s mislabeling of Israel’s tenacity as bull-headed arrogance happens when all the facts are not considered. All things considered it is fairly easy to predict another full-fledged assult upon Israel – the bullies now being Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria’s saber rattling on the north border. It is also fairly easy to predict continued victories and celebrations within Israel because He who keepth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Samaritan Passover

The first time I went to observe the Samaritan Passover was 1982. How very different twenty-five years later. Then it seemed only a handful came to observe this unique event. Now, at least a hundred tour busses crowded the inadequate street leading to the Mount Gerizim community of the Shomron'im (Samaritans). Somewhere near 4,000 visitors from all walks of life made the small mountain top neighborhood resemble an ant hill.

The New Testament story of the woman at the well seemed as pertinent as if it were written yesterday. Thousands of years have passed, and yet a group still contend for the exact spot where the Lord should be worshipped. A Samaritan priest lectured a group of Jewish visitors on why the Samaritans still believe themselves to be obeying God’s written laws from the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy). And pointing out that at least 30,000 of them were not transferred by the Assyrians out of Israel. Those who lived east of the Jordan River of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. It helps to remember that Yeshua did not upbraid the woman . . . He simply informed her that the time was near when God would be worshipped in Spirit and truth, not anchored to a location. He knew what Roman politics would bring to Israel within the following few decades.
Another scattering of His people across the earth reminiscent of the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem some time later. The destruction of Jerusalem, the change of the name Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina. Several varied issues come into focus here. My own fascination with ancient languages gets a booster shot as the ceremony here is done in Samaritan Aramaic language dating back 3,600 years. Speculation about a Third Temple built in Jerusalem too comes into focus – but in practicality. Sacrifice is not a pretty picture and certainly not an idea compatible with modern notions. However, seen in practice, it becomes less mysterious and more understandable. With many Jews and Christians alike in expectation of a Third Temple, this becomes a training exercise toward that day.

I certainly didn’t come away with less questions – but the questions are now different. And knowing that God is not as pleased with the blood of bulls and lambs, as He is with obedience, I can see why the pieces of the puzzle are not in place for an immediate reconstruction of the Temple. I came away with a greater patience with God and His time-table, submitting to His sovereignty and wisdom. This spectacle multiplied a thousand times at a rebuilt Jerusalem temple would surely be close to impossible. God will work all things out in His own timing.
Click arrow to view the film I took of the Samaritan Passover.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Israeli Tribe of Dan

The initial land allotment for the ancient Israeli tribe of Dan was on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It joined Benjamin’s allotment halfway down the mountain coming from Jerusalem to Joppa. The land allotment was sandwiched between Ephraim and Judah. However, this land area was right in the middle of the International Coastal Highway, used by much more powerful nations than Israel at that time. Egypt used the route heading north in many wars against both the Hittites and Assyrians.

Conversely, Assyria used the route south for similar purposes. All trade from Europe and Asia to Africa used that route. It was one of the ancient world’s most traveled highways. Dan threw up their hands eventually and moved as far north as they could get and still be within the boundaries of the nation of Israel. Their city near Mount Hermon was called Dan. Thus the saying, “From Dan to Beer Sheva,” which meant the whole of the nation of Israel. The important thing about this is the fact that ancient Israel had weak points used by aggressive nations to bring them into submission. Two of those were the routes: the International Coastal Route (Via Maris), the Kings Highway (running along the mountain ridge in what is now Jordan), and the Desert Route (the Jordan Valley highway). When you read the Prophet Isaiah chapter 30 entitled “An Oracle to the animals of the Negev," you see Israel using a harsh, rarely used route to travel to Egypt to form an alliance against their northern neighbors Assyria and Babylon. They were in fact sneaking down that route so as not to be seen by those who used the major routes. Therefore, Israel is weak when her access routes are conquered. Also, it is noteworthy that five of the six cities of refuge (Israel’s ancient judicial system) are now under the control of Islamic countries. The names of the cities are Golan, Ramoth Gilead (now in Jordan), Shechem (now the Islamic city of Nablus), Hebron (now in the control of Palestinians), Bezer (also in Jordan); the only city left is Kedesh on the way to Dan and Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights. Syria is presently demanding that the Golan Heights be returned to them, which will, in fact, be the end of ancient Israel’s judicial system of the cities of refuge. That must have spiritual implications. Mount Hermon itself sits between Syria and Lebanon on Israel’s north border. This mountain, beyond its beauty and modern-day resort status, is the watchtower of Israel, guarding her from potential future invasions from Hezbollah and Syria. The vital importance of this area cannot be overestimated or exaggerated. An area called the "Sheba Farms" is the flash point being used right now by Lebanon and Syria to hold Israel’s feet to the fire on where the border is exactly. The Chinese drip torture of these continual assults upon God’s land and God's people is nothing new. However, if we we are not familiar with history, it is sure to repeat itself with the consent of more powerful nations.

A final word on Israel’s weak points is another highway. The Highway of the Patriarchs runs from Assyria (now Modern Syria) through the Golan to ancient Samaria. It then travels on a very high but flat plateau between Shiloh and Gibeah (of Saul) just north of Jerusalem, through Bethlehem and on south to Hebron, Beer Sheva and finally Egypt. This route now lies mainly in what the media likes to call "the West Bank." The biblical term is Shomron. The "name-change” game assures that Israel’s God-given right to the land is blurred and the term “occupied” then seems politically correct to the Western world. I think you can see the implications of Dan, their move, and Mount Hermon in the larger picture. We find ourselves spinning our wheels in political negotiations several levels removed from the spiritual reality of a land belonging to God and only loaned to a people group called the Jewish nation of Israel. This is the only land in the world with such distinctions.

Today we are faced with challenges as at no other time in history. We sit on the watershed of history wherein the results of events may go one of two or more directions. I believe we stand in the gap for Israel and must do so until the end of all things here in on earth.