Monthly Archives: June 2013

It is well to remember that in the world of real politique countries do not have “friends”. They have “interests”.
So where do America’s “interests” lie in the ongoing Syrian conflict? Not an easy question to answer.
We have an interest in maintaining stability in the region and anything or anyone that threatens that stability is an American concern. The Arab Spring has undermined that stability as the autocrats that were our “friends” have been replaced by revolutionaries of the Muslim Brotherhood stripe.
We have an interest in the unimpeded flow of oil . Ours and the world economies depend on this.
We have an interest in stemming the spread of radical Islamist influence in the region.
We have an unusual relationship with Israel that benefits both nations and we bristle at anything that threatens that alliance or the Jewish state.
Clearly these are American “interests and the disintegration of Syria into virtual chaos and civil war does not serve our “interests”.
An example of the law of unintended consequences at work.
During the Russian war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Mujahedeen were our “friends” and, as the President then of the American Freedom Coalition, I was actively involved in their political support in DC. We lobbied and organized rallies to help their cause.
I remember one young Afghan boy of about 12 who was there at one of the DC demonstrations. He was a beautiful child with a handsome face but I also remember how rough his hands were from the life he had to live in that hell hole. These were tough and brave people we admired and, most important, they were the enemies of our then enemy, the Soviet Union. That was America’s interest then.
The US Government gave them stinger missiles then that they used with great effect against the Russian helicopters and ultimately the Russians recognized the inevitable and packed their bags and went home licking their wounds. I wonder about that young boy. He would now be in his late 30s or early 40s. Many of those young fighters that I saw in DC then are now adults and may now be our enemies And what of those stingers?? Where are they?
When you strip away all of the extraneous noise, the Syrian conflict is really the latest chapter in a sectarian war that began in the 7th century when, following the death of Mohammed. Islam split into 2 warring factions over the question of how to select his successors.
The Sunni branch makes up about 85% of the Muslim world. The Shiites make up the balance of about 15%.
And they hate each other. Almost as much as many of them hate us.
Good current example of this at work. The Washington Times 6/25/13 reports that an Egyptian mob of 3000 Sunnis in the Giza district recently burned the houses of and murdered 4 Shiite Muslims..
According to these Egyptian Sunnis, their victims deserved what happened to them for being heretics. One Sunni is reported to have said “We’re happy about what happened. It should have happened long ago. Shiites are infidels”
Please understand: In this modern context the Shiites are Iran, and the majority population of Iraq (now ruled by a Shiite president) and the Alawites ( a branch of Shia Islam) of the Assad regime in Syria. Most of the rest of the Muslim world including the radical Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, are Sunni.
The Sunni Saudis are no fans of the Alawite/Shia Syrian regime and have been actively trying to undercut Assad there..
In this context, the cruel nature of some of the Saudi religious leaders is seen for the EVIL system that it is. (emphasis intentional)
In January 2013, Newsmax reported the following story. “A Saudi Wahhabi preacher’s religious decree reveals barbaric justification emanating from the kingdom’s clerics. Saudi preacher……….issued a fatwa that allows jihadi fighters to rape Syrian women”. The stated justification for this decree? Because they have “not been with a woman for two years and” (according to this cleric, he) “is allowing them to engage in ‘intercourse marriage’ that lasts for a few hours ‘in order to give each fighter a turn’. It is the women’s duty” (according to this Muslim Imam…. Imagine if an American pastor made the same argument?) “ to acquiesce in this arrangement in order to reach paradise because it ‘boosts the determination of the Mujahideen in Syria’ as long as they” (the female victims) “are at least 14 years old, widowed or

Such is the religious mind set of Saudi Sunnis involved in this war to topple Assad.
Assad is a clearly a bad dude but it is hard to get into bed with the Saudis
So it is difficult to pick the “good guys” out in this Syrian civil war. And the longer this conflict continues the more difficult it will be to choose sides. The reason is that Islamists are now apparently flooding into Syria on the side of the rebels against the Assad government and they are the same crowd that wants us all dead.
However this all ends up, America’s interests will not be served well.
But clearly no American blood should be shed in this conflict. None. Regardless of what politicians may say, safely ensconced behind wooden desks in Washington DC.
And I welcome your opinion.
Dr. Bob Grant

Dr Robert Grant has been traveling to the Middle East for more than 46 years and has gone there over 125 times hosting groups of friends on holy land tours. As a result he hs been dubbed the holy land guru by some.

BTW I am new and trying to get established and would really appreciate it if you would ‘Like” my Facebook page at

So picture this:
You are a guide in Israel and you stop with your group to catch your breath and you lean on a piece of a column jutting out of the ground and suddenly …..What is this thing? And again, suddenly it becomes a really big deal with archeological and political ramifications.
And that is what happened recently in the tiny Arab village of Silwan.
So Silwan aka as the city of David,, is again a center of attention with the recent discovery of an impressive ancient column jutting out of the ground.
It is thought that, when the dirt is cleared, it will lead down to the foundations of, and perhaps even more of, a structure of some importance. As often is the case, political sensitivities play an important role.
This would be  an Israeli led archeological dig. The discovery is on privately owned Palestinian land.
So when or if this new find is excavated remains to be seen and the Israeli’s are shushing up the matter hoping to keep a lid on it as they try to negotiate its uncovering with the Arab land owners. .Also a case of follow the money i would assume.
The location of this find is quite significant.

Kedron valley excavations

Much excavation is taking place in Israel


Silwan is an nondescript Arab village that clings to the sides of the Kedron Valley to the south of the present Old City walls of Jerusalem, extending from the Dung Gate where people now enter to visit the wailing or Western wall of Temple Mount, south, into the Kedron valley and the excavations of the ancient city of David.

One could make the case that Silwan is part of the remains of David’s ancient capital beginning about 1000 BC.
It was to this place David first brought the Ark of the Covenant. And this is where it was stored until his son Solomon built the 1st temple to the north on the plateau of Mount Moriah. So for Old Testament scholars this is sacred ground

In the area of Silwan is the Pool of Siloam where Jesus brought sight to the blind man by spitting in the dirt and putting the mud on the man’s eyes. He told him to “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” Also see my blog about Hezekiah’s marvelous tunnel. Fascinating story.
This is also where David, 3100 years ago, first captured the then Jebusite city which became his capital . The nearby Gihon Spring is probably where David planted his gardens and it still yields fruit. Remember when you read about water and Jerusalem in the Old Testament it is probably refering to this same spring that continues to pump out water today
Also this is where King David, the first King of Israel, was finally buried.

So this discovery could be of major importance, but we will just have to wait as politics plays out its role and we probably get, to follow the money, as they say.

But now, a more personal story about Silwan that might interest you.
Ali has been my taxi driver for more than 40 years. He is a rotund little arab man who, when I first met him, was not a very good Muslim.
He favored Araq, a popular local liquor too much, and we used to tease him when he appeared to be in his cups, with ”Ali drinks too much Arak”. To which he would remonstrate “No, No, Ali not guilty”
In more recent years, Ali has gotten serious about life and Allah. He has now gone to Mecca and so is now called Haj and now refuses to drink Araq …….unless, that is, he has back slidden since I last saw him.

Ali lived and still lives in Silwan in a humble little mud walled home with his plump little wife and, probably now, grandchildren.
About 40 years ago, Judy and I were accorded the honor of being invited to have dinner in their home and we went, not quite knowing what to expect.
As I recall there were 2 small rooms sparsely furnished. In the one there was a small kitchen table with oil skin on top and with a sheet of clean butcher’s paper and on that paper was the full carcass of a roasted lamb. Three kitchen chairs were available. . Knives and forks were not provided or expected. Around the corner just out of sight in the other room sat his little wife cross legged on the dirt floor as we ate.
She did not join us nor was she expected to do so.
The meal began with Ali bringing a cleaver to the table and beginning to chop up the carcass with the fat flying in all directions, Judy reminded me.
It was a meal to be remembered. Culture shock. .
But it was an act of friendship and respect that we sincerely appreciated. Difficult for Judy as she does not like to think of where meat comes from and prefers to think of it as falling off a tree rather from a living creature. There was no escaping the fact that we were then consuming an animal that some hours ago had walked around.

Flash forward 40 years. By contrast I had dinner February in the lovely home of Bethlehem’s George Nissan who owns a large restaurant where we take our groups to eat and a large shop. It too was a meal to be remembered but for a different reason.
The Arabs are beautiful and hospitable people who treasure friendships whether they are affluent or struggling.

Herod built things to last

The huge stones at the base of the western wall of the temple mount were placed there by Herod the Great at the time of Jesus

We appreciated Ali’s hospitality as it was important for him to offer this gesture. But, as I stated,  it was a struggle for Judy to eat the lamb as it looked too much like an animal, and besides, that was all that was on the table. No salad or vegies or anything else. Just the lamb.
Well, we got it down. What else we could do?

We thanked our sweet hosts profusely and stored this tale up so that I could share it with you here and now.
Travel to other cultures sure does broaden our understanding of the world. Everybody does not live like we do in America. For some first time travelers to the Holy Land this comes as a bit of a shock.

Dr. Robert Grant has been traveling to the Holy land for more than 46 years and has gone there on more than 125 occasions as he hosts groups of friends on holy land tours. As a result he has also been dubbed  “The Holy land Guru”

written  6/24/13


Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

boat on Sea of Galilee

boat on Sea of Galilee

Israel is a land of constant discovery and an archaeologist’s virtual play pen.

Science in the service of archaeology is now being demonstrated at the Sea of Galilee where, using sonar technology, a huge stone structure has recently been discovered under the water.
It appears to be about 230’ in diameter and about 39’ tall and is located about 40’ under the present water level.

What it is and who built it and when it was built is a subject of much conjecture at this point. Opinions vary as to its age from as much as 6000 years to “several thousand years”.
Having been on the Sea of Galilee many times over the years it is interesting to note how close we were to this massive yet then unknown structure.
It is constructed of basalt stone, the volcanic stone that is seen everywhere in the Galilee region. This,as a result of the region occupying a major geologic fault that has been subject to volcanic activity for many thousands of years.  

But What Is It?

According to Science Daily 6/10/13 “The team of researchers initially set out to uncover the origins of alluvium pebbles found in this area of the Sea of Galilee, which they believe were deposited by the ancient Yavniel Creek, a precursor to the Jordan River, south of the Sea of Galilee. While using sonar…..they observed a massive pile of stones in the midst of the otherwise smooth basin.”

When this mysterious structure was originally built it apparently was on dry land. Its present location under the water may have been a result of geologic shifting

It is located about 1500’ from the South West shore of the Sea.
The cost of excavating sites in the Middle East is always expensive and especially so if they are under water. This will be the first such under water site to be investigated in the Sea of Galilee when funding is finally secured. In the meantime ”the researchers plan to organize a specialized underwater excavations team to learn more about the origins of the structure, including the surface the structure was built on”.

Just one more mystery to be solved in this land full of mysteries and wonder.

Dr. Robert Grant has been taking to the holy land tours for more than 46 years and has been there more than 125 times while hosting groups of his friends on holy land tours. As a result he has been acclaimed  The Holy Land Guru much to his amusement.


In 1967 following the war that brought Jerusalem under Jewish control, the Israeli archeologists began excavating at the Southern wall of the Temple Mount (which is  also the Southern wall of the city too) and they uncovered an enormous flight of stairs that led up from the Ophal Valley to the South and the Pool of Siloam, into the Temple through a set of gates.

This well preserved flight of steps would have been used by Jesus and the Disciples as they entered the temple on feast days.

Much of the present day gates at the top of the stairs, ( some from the time of Herod and some from a later time,) are walled up. Limited access is available into the Temple Mount at this point but the good news is that, once inside, the original ceilings and walls appear just as they did when Jesus walked that way.

This section survived the almost total destructions caused by the Romans in 70 AD. It is however difficult to gain access to the inside section of this discovery as access is controlled by the Muslim authorities and is rarely granted.

Dr Robert Grant has been traveling to the Middle East for more than 46 years and has been there more than 125 times as he has taken groups of friends there on holy land tours. As a result he had been designated the holy land guru by some much to his amusement.

Fascinating Middle East Predictions

Victor Davis Hansen is a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. This article by him appeared in the Washington Times newspaper May 3, 2013. His grasp of the past forces that have shaped the Middle East as it now exists and his projections for the future are groundbreaking and worthy of careful consideration.

Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the trading nexus of three continents- Asia, Europe and Africa-and the vibrant birthplace to three of the worlds’  great religions.

Middle Eastern influence rose again in the 19th century when the Suez Canal turned  the once dead-end Mediterranean Sea into a watery highway from Europe to Asia.

With the 20th century development of large gas and oil supplies in the Persian Gulf and North Africa, an Arab led OPEC more or less dictated the foreign policy of thirsty importers such as the United State and Europe. No wonder US Central Command has remained America’s military command hot spot.

Yet insidiously the Middle East is becoming irrelevant. The discovery of enormous new oil and gas reserves  along with the use of new oil-recovery technology in North America and China, is steadily curbing the demand for Middle Eastern oil. Soon,  countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran are going to have less income and geostrategic clout. In both  Iran and the Gulf, domestic demand is rising while there is neither the technical  know-how nor the water to master the new art of fracking to sustain exports.

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