"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Be Kind to Your Server Because You Never Know

When my wife and I choose a drive-through restaurant, it's often because we're in a rush to get to our next appointment or event.

That's the way it was for me today.

After making some hospital visits, Rachelle and I went out for a quick lunch. We were both in a rush to make our next appointments, so we chose a drive-through restaurant.

I sometimes find myself impatient with servers when I'm in a hurry like today. After all, it's called "fast" food, right?

"Let's go!" "Come on!" "Hurry up!"

Those are the hidden thoughts that often race through my head, and on some unfortunate occasions, give birth to audible words.

Today there were some issues in communicating through the speaker at the drive-through. The woman listening to me order our food couldn't hear me, and I had to repeat myself two or three times.

Cars lined up behind us.

The delay was abnormal. I remained calm. I also spoke kindly into the speaker throughout the confusion, never allowing the little negative thoughts in my head to morph into some unkind words from my mouth.

Thank God.

Because when we pulled to the window, we were greeted with a huge, beautiful smile. The woman's face was literally beaming. She greeted me by name and said she'd be right back with our food.

"Who is that?" my wife asked.

I told my wife the food server's name and her story.

Our food server worked as a prostitute on the streets of Dallas, Texas.

She was born in Oklahoma but dropped out of high school before graduation. She moved to Dallas where she got involved in the drug culture.

From 1992 to 2012 she used cocaine and heroin and solicited to pay for the drugs. She was arrested multiple times in Dallas. Her record includes three misdemeanor convictions for solicitation, three felony DUI’s, and one felony conviction for cocaine possession.

After her last conviction in 2012, the State of Texas sent her to prison.

While in prison, she discovered she was pregnant. She had no idea who the father was. She considered an abortion, but her mom and dad convinced her to give birth by promising to take care of the baby back in Oklahoma while she finished her prison sentence in Texas.

So she gave birth to her son while in prison.

Her parents drove down and picked up the newborn infant from the institution's infirmary.

In May of 2014, this woman got out of prison and came to Oklahoma to be near her baby.

"How do you know all this?" my wife asks.

I tell her the rest of the story while we wait for our food.

A few years ago the church I pastor made a conscientious decision to change the direction of our church ministries. Rather than focusing on ensuring white, upper-income, nuclear Christian families were comfortable with "the way we do church," I intentionally led our people to become missional and strategic in reaching people who would never set foot in a traditional Baptist church.

Five years ago the woman serving us our food today would never have dreamed of attending Emmanuel Baptist Church of Enid, Oklahoma. The people at Emmanuel Baptist Church were remarkable, gospel-oriented people, but we were too focused on making ourselves comfortable in the church services rather than thinking of the lost and what they need to know Christ.

So we made some changes. Too many changes to describe in this post, but each change was intentional and missional.

We focused on creating an environment where people in need of Jesus would actually be drawn to learn more about Him through our church rather than be rejected or repulsed by our church.  

As we started making changes, a few people left to find a place where they could enjoy the comforts they'd lost. We understood that this might happen. Change is never easy. It's hard. However, when a church changes because of a desire to reach people for Christ, criticism can be endured. It's never personal; it's only for a Person.

In the fall of 2015, the woman serving us our food today began attending our contemporary Refuge worship service at Emmanuel Enid. She knew she was needing a change in her life, and the first person she thought of was God.

Somebody told her she ought to try the Emmanuel Enid Refuge service.

She came the first time and hid from others on the last row of the balcony. She didn't know what to expect, and she wanted to be able to leave quickly.

But to her surprise, she loved the contemporary worship service. It didn't feel like what she thought a church would feel like.

She cried during the message.

She learned of a recovery ministry through an announcement at the end of the Refuge worship service.

She began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery support group the next week, and she continued coming to Emmanuel Enid's Refuge worship service. One month turned into six months; six months turned into a year, and one year has now turned into two years.

Last week she came to my office to introduce herself to me. She wept as she told me her story.

Christ has saved her. She wants to be baptized and join our church. She also is beginning classes next week to become the leader of a chemical addiction recovery group at Emmanuel Enid.

She works three jobs to support her toddler son. She gets help from her retired mom and dad in watching her child so that she can work those three jobs and pay her bills. One of those jobs is at the fast food restaurant we went to today.

The one with the faulty speaker.

As she handed us our food and we drove away, my wife said, "Wow, Wade, what an incredible story."

Yes, indeed.

I'm working this afternoon on a long post that is theological in nature, one that I believe will be a comfort to many Christians.

But as I sit in my office at the church building, eating the fast food I picked up today, I felt impressed to type this post.

I write to encourage those of us who know Christ to remember that God doesn't call His people to sit in a church to be comfortable. He calls us to be a part of a church that will make us missional.

His Kingdom is about people.

Prostitutes. Drug addicts. Prisoners. He turns His people into the kind of beautiful woman who waited on us today. That's grace. That's amazing grace.

Jesus came to set the captives free.

So be kind to your server because you never know.

You never know what Jesus is up to in their lives.

Respecting the National Anthem Is All about Honor

I believe most Americans would agree that the ability and freedom to express an opinion is more American than any effort at trying to silence the speaker.

However, the discomfort many Americans feel when we see our fellow Americans refusing to stand and honor our country during the singing of the national anthem is not uncomfortableness over what is being said. The issue for many of us is when it is being said. 

It is a matter of honor for many of us.

America has certain freedoms that people in other countries do not enjoy, including the freedom of speech and the freedom to dissent against governing authorities. Ask the people of Turkey if they are free. Ask the people of North Korea if they can dissent against their leader. Ask the people of Saudi Arabia if they are free to worship as they please. 

America may not be perfect, but we the people are experiencing freedoms that others don't. We Americans don't have to discuss building borders and fences to keep people in our country as North Korea's government must do. We Americans have to talk about building barriers to potentially keep people out of our country because people wish to come to America to experience the freedoms we enjoy

Think about that for a moment.

Why are we Americans free to worship as we please, free to speak what we please, and free to express dissenting opinions as we please, freedoms that most citizens in other countries do not enjoy? It is because our grandfathers defeated Hitler, our great-grandfathers defeated the Ottoman Empire, our great-great-grandfathers died on the battlefields over American union, and our 6(x) grandfathers died fighting the British empire during the Revolutionary War. The price of our freedoms has been paid by the blood our forefathers.

I believe many Americans are offended by the timing of the public expressions against racial inequality, social oppression, and police brutality. We wish to help the oppressed, right the wrongs within law enforcement, and level the playing field for all Americans; these issues are real for us too.

But it just does not seem honorable to dissent during the national anthem? You might respond, "But police brutality, racial inequality, and social injustice are never honorable!" We agree! But you will lose us with your visible displays of dishonor. 

To sit or kneel during the national anthem feels to us like you are trampling on the graves of those Americans who died on the beaches of Normandy, or in the trenches of Europe, or on the fields of Gettysburg, or around the hills of Yorktown to fight against tyranny, slavery and our inability to speak or dissent freely against governing authorities. We wish to honor the price paid for our freedoms.

Verbally spar with the President of the United States; just don't do it during the time we honor those who fought that you might actually speak and dissent freely. Speak your mind against oppression in America; just take the time to ask the question whether it's wise to speak your mind during the time we customarily honor those who died that Americans might be free.

In other words, if you are an individual American or belong to a group of Americans that believes your freedoms are non-existent, then say it, write it, and share it by whatever means necessary, except during the national anthem. To say it during the time set aside to honor the price paid for whatever freedoms you do possess - including your right to publicly dissent - is an offense to many Americans.

Do Americans have the right to express a dissenting opinion during the national anthem and offend other Americans while doing it? Of course they do! 

However, other Americans who despise oppression of any kind (like I), who are actually unafraid to fight for the oppressed (like I), and who understand the libertarian principle of individual expression of dissent (like I) will often struggle when we see you disrespecting our national anthem or the American flag. 

It's an issue of honor for us.

To dishonor the anthem or disrespect the flag which represents the men and women who fought that America might be free means that your disrespect will produce the opposite effect to that which you intend.

Many Americans will find it difficult to support any persons or any movements where there is a visible display of dishonor toward those who have died to ensure our unique American freedoms, including the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the freedom to dissent.

It's the timing of your protest that is a turn-off to many of us

You may not understand where I'm coming from; I get that. You might say that you are actually not free. I would immediately respond that you haven't traveled much. You might argue that it is not your intention to disrespect those who've died that America might be free. I get that too. However, now that you know how the majority of Americans view your protest, you may find that if you continue, those of us who would normally sympathize with your cause might remain silent. 

I'm convinced that you will only obtain the support of the majority of American people for your cause when you respect the time-honored, traditional American practice of paying homage to those who've died to ensure that we Americans might be free from tyranny and oppression.

So I encourage you to stand and sing the national anthem. 

Honor the American flag and what it represents. 

Then let's talk. 

All Moms Is an Excellent Alternative to MOPS

All Moms, Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma, September 2017
Sarah Wilkins has been the MOPS Coordinator at Emmanuel Enid for our Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) ministry for the last several years. She and her MOPS leadership committee have done an amazing job reaching out to moms in our community with encouragement, support, and the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Over a year ago Sarah wrote an Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International. She expressed a strong concern that MOPS was departing from the gospel of Jesus Christ in the curriculum that MOPS was sending to their various local church MOPS ministries around the world.  The Open Letter sparked a broad, wide-ranging online conversation. Many MOPS church leaders felt some of the same concerns Sarah Wilkins expressed through her Open Letter. I know by measuring reader statistics of that particular post that Sarah struck a chord in the hearts of tens of thousands of local church leaders who have used MOPS materials in their ministry to young mothers. 

After the publication of her Open Letter, Sarah Wilkins began leading the former Emmanuel MOPS Leadership Team to start a new ministry to mothers that they called All Moms. What follows below is an explanation from Sarah Wilkins as to "Why?" and "How?" All Moms came into existence. Sarah's passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Her desire is for young mothers to know that the only answer for the problems they face in life are found in the Person and work of Jesus on their behalf. If you have any further questions about All Moms and would like to communicate with Sarah Wilkins privately, you may contact her at sarah.wilkinsdevconsulting@gmail.com.

An Explanation from Sarah Wilkins Regarding ALL MOMS

"Last year our local MOPS group was struggling with tough questions surrounding what to do next. 
Ceasing to exist was not an option. We needed a solid plan to be ready for the women in our community. Due to the content of MOPS materials in 2016, we were on our own and we scrambled together materials for our local moms. Our thoughts turned to what we would need to do for the future.  After 25 plus years of being an official MOPS group, how would we continue without MOPS?

MOPS used to be exclusively a parachurch organization which only partnered with churches who agreed with their conservative statement of faith, starting this month, they also partner with women who are not associated with any church in a new format listed as “Gatherings” on their website. This is a new announcement, and materials are not available for preview. 

With the current church model MOPS, a church pays a fee to MOPS and then lay women run the program.  In my experience, it was and is unusual for pastoral staff to be heavily involved with a MOPS group, but MOPS groups are distinctly marketed to the conservative faith community including a conservative statement of faith on the contract. In exchange for registering a MOPS group, the lay leadership receives theme information, graphics pieces, in meeting DVD teaching series, and leadership training material.

The lay leadership of each MOPS chapter collects dues from women and additional money to operate their own local group. MOPS asks to receive $20-$30 per woman in exchange for individual registration of each woman.  MOPS sends each woman who registers a packet of theme information and quarterly magazines.  It also seeks to connect with the women on a more regular basis on social media. In 2016-2017, I think the printed materials crossed over the structure that the statement of faith should have provided.  This year, the materials available online seem to stay a little closer to the gospel as described in the official statement of faith but still do not clearly present Jesus as an essential part of the materials.  The goal seems to be neutrality, to cast a very broad net and not offend with the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. 

MOPS newly introduced format “Gatherings”, which appears to be outside the parachurch
partnership model, allows any woman to become her own group outside of the church setting. They are topical 6-week community building segments.  I have not seen any of the materials, but President Mandy Arioto mentioned these in a Vimeo leadership call video that was posted last summer. Her vision was to move MOPS outside of the church and into places like coffee shops.  My suspicion is that these segments are secular and most likely inclusive of all belief systems. In her book Starry Eyed, released last year, Arioto referenced John Philip Newell who believes Jesus came not to provide atonement, a concept he openly laughs at in YouTube videos, but to bring human oneness… community. To Newell community includes all faiths. Jesus is not necessary for salvation.  The “Gathering” concept and printed materials MOPS have been producing seem to point towards the oneness in motherhood goal. To me, this is purely a civic goal and not a purpose regularly seen in the conservative church. A civic good is not a terrible thing. It is however outside of what is considered a ministry purpose.

It is for these reasons, that I still suggest church pastoral staff review materials coming from MOPS International. Specifically, I think the pastoral staff needs to know what the regular registered mom receives in the mail directly from the organization. I also think it would be wise for pastoral staff to know the discipleship level of lay leadership, and how comfortable they are with sharing Biblical gospel truth.

Without a ministry in a box arriving for my church group, our steering team worked hard to create our own. We agreed on a theme based on what we saw in our local women and opened a writing compilation group on Facebook.  We invited all the bloggers we knew and received submissions from local moms and former MOPS moms in different states.  We found a local mom gifted in by hand word art, and she agreed to largely donate her work.  Then we chose a name.

We went with the name All Moms. Over the years we found ourselves repeating “it’s for all moms.” All moms is the answer to so many questions.  The verbal ones and the unsaid communications of facial expression and body language that read skepticism.

The skeptic thinks:

Is this group of moms that meets at a church really for me? Is this some type of bait and switch trap? Will the room be full of glam moms with pockets full of money, or moms who have clean minivans and a vocabulary remiss of four-letter words? Will I be the only woman with real problems walking into a room of moms who have it together?”

Will they care that I’m not married?
Will they care that I don’t go to church?
Will they see that I’m lonely and talk to me?
Will they see me as valuable, or will they pass over me because I’m somehow not enough or not what they want?

The answer has been and continues to be that all moms are welcome.  This year we are at 98 registered mommas; half are new. There is no “club”, no social standing necessary, you can come into this group with your new mom smell and we will celebrate you (for me the new mom smell is spit up and sweat- possibly dry shampoo.)  You can come in with your makeup on, freshly showered with an amazing casserole and two kids wearing clothes AND shoes, and we will celebrate you.

I love seeing the panorama of women walk in.  God placed these women onto Earth within the wombs of all kinds of women.  Some were introduced by family members to Jesus as young girls and continue to walk with Him.  Some were introduced to Jesus as young girls, but have chosen broad paths that led them away from Truth only to find themselves at a crossroads inside a church staring at an opportunity to hop back on the narrow path with a Savior who pursues them.  Some women, equally loved by their heavenly father, have yet to be introduced to Him.  They have walked their journeys into adulthood on their “own”; experienced pain, loss, and struggle on their own.  When they walk into All Moms, we see that God has orchestrated their lives to a path in which they will receive an introduction to the gospel.

Our theme this year is Re-frame: Truth, Value & Purpose. 
Ephesians 2:10 NLT is the Biblical truth the theme is built upon.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

When our 100+ women come together, it is our goal to take them into a place of connectedness and encouragement through re-framing every-day life with truth. We want to paint a new picture of everything and every person.  We want each woman to hear that she is viewed by her creator as a masterpiece.  We want to help erase the distortions and cloudy lenses Satan has created. We want to help the women develop new eyesight based upon the truth of the gospel. We want them to hear it in what we say and read it within the Re-frame compilation.

Almost half of our women do not identify themselves with a church. They will hear speakers, coming from a Christian worldview, on a broad range of topics. At each table, there is a peer leader and a wiser older woman who have realized that part of the “good things” in God’s plan for them is to encourage women to experience being valued and think about life from a new gospel truth perspective.

This year our leadership team of volunteer mommas represents eight churches within our community.  Together we meet to plan details, study Bible passages, think of ways to improve loving on our moms, and pray. They are wonderful women. They have availed themselves to encountering women in our community.

I can say for certain that there are mothers all over the United States who would come into a church on a blind invite. Loneliness is a human condition that existed before the fall. Loneliness in early motherhood is exacerbated by the magnitude of the desire to parent well. Loneliness and the crushing standards of parenting well create a weariness and need for encouragement.  Women are hungry for it.

We will continue our work to encounter and encourage women in our community.  We have a new name, and lots of additional work was required, but we know it’s worth it because the women are here. The field is white with harvest. This is the community in which the Lord has us. All Moms builds opportunity for friendship. Friendship based on gospel truth that leads to freedom.

I reviewed all I could from the 2017-2018 MOPS International theme.  In my opinion, they are sticking with the method to “broaden the net” with their materials leaving it up to local groups to add as much Jesus/Christianity as they want back in. I still question the reasoning and wisdom behind this move.  No woman sees MOPS printed material before she registers. It is not the broadened materials that lead to more women attending who don’t know Christ.  It is not their printed materials that reach the women to come into a MOPS group.  Each local group invites women and markets themselves. Each local group creates or destroys an atmosphere that welcomes all kinds of women.

Since exposure to the printed, audiovisual, and digital materials from MOPS are something that occurs throughout the year but not before a mom registers, I do not understand the broadening. How much Christian worldview and gospel truth a mom hears at a MOPS meeting will vary depending on the lay steering team.  Under MOPS old model, this was not so.  Jesus was in the materials, the magazines, the meeting DVD topics.  A host church could have a mom lead the group, who wasn’t deeply discipled, and the women would still encounter Jesus.

I think that long-term, this new model endangers the efficacy of MOPS International as a parachurch organization. The new “gathering” group option may be completely secular including views far outside MOPS Internationals statement of faith, I cannot say for certain because I have not yet seen the future Mops materials. That's why we created All Moms. I wanted to be sure what was being taught was the gospel.

If the move away from the gospel continues in MOPS, what happens when a pastor learns that the women attending the MOPS group in his church building for nine months have learned about multiple ways to release their shame and that Jesus Christ and His work on the cross were never mentioned as an essential for a woman's shame being released?  Does the pastor continue to trust the MOPS organization meeting in his church building that forsakes the gospel?  Does the pastor choose to begin vetting the MOPS steering team for how much Jesus they plan on adding back in what is being taught? These questions for a local church are very important ones that must be answered if MOPS continues as a ministry within a local church. All Moms insures that the good news of Jesus Christ is primary. 

Looking forward, if MOPS changes their method of reaching mothers back to a gospel-centered ministry, we will happily rejoin. It’s a lot of work for lay volunteers to pull together their own program. But until MOPS reforms, we will be doing the work and looking for like-minded groups to share our materials for free. If anyone is interested in what we put together, feel free to email me at sarah.wilkinsdevconsulting@gmail.com."

The NFL Is Tone Deaf and Old School Is Cool

Alejanro Villanueva, the NFL's American Patriot
It's been my privilege to pastor a large evangelical church in northwest Oklahoma for the last 25 years. It may come as a surprise to some, but we intentionally do not place an American flag in the auditorium where we gather for corporate worship. We believe the Kingdom of Christ is the eternal nation to which Christians belong, and the Good News of Jesus Christ transcends national politics and patriotism. We have people who worship God with us on Sundays from various other nations and countries, and we make it clear that they are of us, for our "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). The Bible teaches that Christ's church is "a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language" (Revelation 7:9). When we gather as Christians for corporate worship, we do not wish to muddy the Good News with national politics.

That said, our church also operates an elementary school. In the church's educational setting, educators and administrators will teach young people both Christian principles (as just explained) and American citizenship. We believe those who have the honor to call the United States of America home also have the responsibility to learn how to be good American citizens.  

The church and the school have different functions. In the chapel of our school, we intentionally place the American flag at the front and teach the children how to pledge allegiance to the flag as good American citizens. Politics, government, patriotism and good citizenship are all proper subjects for the school. But we believe we downgrade and denigrate the gospel when national politics enter the places where we gather for Christian worship. I realize that some of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ may disagree with our strict "separation of church and state," but it's the way we operate at Emmanuel Enid. As an example, I have five friends - two of whom are very close friends - who are running for governor of Oklahoma. I will not be inviting any of the five to speak during a church services. It's not that what they are doing (running for governor) is not important; it's that what we are doing in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ during our worship gatherings is more important.  

With that as background, and writing as an American citizen (not as a pastor or even as a Christian), I am bumfuzzled by the actions of NFL football players who are kneeling when the Star Spangled Banner is played. The NFL is tone deaf. The NFL players seem to believe that by kneeling during the national anthem, American citizens will rise, applaud, and support their political movement. No; just the opposite. Americans appreciate American patriots, and disrespecting the flag is an immediate F in good citizenship. 

But not all NFL players are tone deaf.  

Alejandro Villanueva, a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the only football player on his team to step out of the locker room and place his hand over his heart and sing the national anthem today. His teammates remained in the locker room. As an American citizen myself, I am proud of Mr. Villanueva. I have the suspicion that he has become a very popular NFL player across the country. Americans on both coasts may think politics is the solution for America's problems, but Alejandro Villanueva understands why every American citizen should stand and salute the American flag. Listen to what he said:
"I don't know if it's effective (e.g. 'to protest racial injustice') by sitting down during the national anthem of a country that's providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year ... when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year,"
Villanueva, 27, a former rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, was asked about the responsibility of an athlete to stand during the anthem. Villanueva, of Spanish descent, responded:
"American minorities have more liberties than in other countries, with the freedom to speak their mind, largely because of the military fighting for that right.
That's an American patriot right there. 

What seems even more confusing to me are those Americans who identify as Christians and support kneeling during the national anthem on the basis of Christian principles. For example, a few of my Facebook friends who are Christians advocate for those who kneel on the basis Christians should be all about social justice. I believe my friends have confused American politics with the Christian gospel. We Christians bear a message that transcends the pros and cons of kneeling during a national flag salute. Our message even transcends issues of social justice. The world and its governments are not always just.

Even in America.

It is the right of every American to kneel when the national anthem is played - you may deemed a poor American citizen if you do -  but it is your right, yes, your freedom to kneel. It is a right for which others fought and died. It is a freedom to kneel that is paid in the price of your forefathers' blood. Try kneeling at the North Korean national anthem and sees what happens to you as a North Korean citizen. But as an American citizen, you have both the right to kneel and the right to fight for the right of other Americans to kneel during the national anthem, but for heaven's sake, don't fight for that right on the basis of Christian principles. 

When Christians spend more time railing against an American President than we do proclaiming the Good News of our Eternal King, then we might have unintentionally switched our passports. As a Christian, our message ought to transcend politics. We should never lead anyone to think that they can find ultimate justice in human governments. Take a look at the old negro spirituals written during the Civil War. The men and women who wrote these spirituals knew Christ, and they understood their value as citizens of heaven. They recognized the King of kings as their King. And their hope was in Him, not a just government.

Concerns over police abuse, racial injustice, and other social issues may be in the hearts of Americans when they kneel during the national anthem, but when they kneel, they aren't being good American citizens (in my opinion). As an American citizen, feel free to disagree with me, but let's leave Christianity out of politics, and politics out of our Christianity. We have the freedom to disagree as Americans, the freedom to kneel at the American national anthem, and the freedom to speak our minds and oppose our American political leaders because American men and women have fought and died that this generation of Americans might be free to oppose our government.

That's why I will always stand with my hand over my heart as an American citizen. And that's why I'll not denigrate the gospel by addressing this political issue during our Christian worship.

Old school American patriotism is cool.

Old school Christianity sets the captives free. 

Let's never confuse the two. 

Israel and Palestine: A Brief Summary of the Issues

If you are a person who is constantly bewildered by the animosity between Arabs and Jews, and if you scratch your head trying to understand the centuries-long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis – a bitter fight over a claim both make on a piece of land called Israel (if you are an Israeli) and Palestine (if you are an Arab), then I would encourage you to read this short summary of the Arab/Israeli conflict. The next 10 minutes might save yourself a lifetime of confusion.

In 2000 B.C., a young man named Abram was “called by God” out of the land of Ur (Babylon) to a land that God promised to give “to your descendants, from the Egypt to the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18-21). This land, called the Promised Land, was already inhabited by the Canaanite people, but God promised Abraham that He would give him this land. Over 500 years later, under the leadership of Joshua, the descendants of Abraham drove the Canaanites from their land and established the new nation called Israel.

What Happened to the Canaanites?

The Canaanites got into ships and left the land of Israel. The evidence is clear that the Canaanites left Israel for north Africa.  

Close to the Pillars of Hercules (e.g. Gibraltar), on the south side or African side of the Mediterranean, the vanquished Canaanite refugees built two cities:

"They [the Canaanites] built THE CITY OF TINGE AND TANGER IN NUMIDIA, where were two pillars of white stone, placed near to a great fountain, in which, in the Phoenician tongue, was engraven: WE ARE CANAANITES, WHOM JOSHUA THE THIEF CHASED AWAY" (Relations of the World and the Religions Observed in All Ages, Samuel Purchas, Book I, chapter XVIII, p.85)

In The Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston, there is a footnote on page 110 that corroborates the Canaanites went to North Africa:

"Moses Chorenensis sets down the FAMOUS INSCRIPTION AT TANGIER [TANGER] concerning the old CANAANITES driven out of Palestine by Joshua thus:

"We are those exiles that were governors of the Canaanites, but have been driven away by Joshua the robber, AND ARE COME TO INHABIT HERE'" (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids. 1988).

In time these inhabitants of Northern Africa became known as Berbers and Moors.

From the city of Numidia the Canaanites eventually made it across the Straits of Gibraltar and reached as far north as Scandinavia and the British Isles. In these countries, and in Europe in general, the Canannites have left evidence of their existence over large areas of land, and are known to the anthropologists as the "Beaker People."

Meanwhile, Back in Israel

After a period of 400 years, the nation of Israel united under kings. First Saul, then David, then Solomon.

The nation of Israel split in 931 B.C. over a dispute concerning taxes. There were 10 tribes of Israel who composed “the northern Kingdom of Israel” with their capital in the city of Samaria, and there were two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) who made up “the southern Kingdom called Judah.”

In 722 B.C. the northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians, and the wicked Assyrians (capital of Nineveh) took captive the men of the 10 tribes of the north (thereafter known as “The 10 Lost Tribes”), and forced pagans to move to northern Israel and intermarry with the remaining Israeli women. The “half-breed’ descendants of Israeli women and pagan men came to be known as “The Samaritans.”

The southern kingdom of Judah had help from God and successfully resisted the Assyrians. It is only AFTER 722 B.C. that the name “Jew” comes into existence, an abbreviation of “Judah” or “Judeans” (e.g. people from Judah). Also, since the northern kingdom of Israel was wiped out after Assyrian invasion, after 722 B.C., the kingdom of Judah also would often go by the ancient name Israel.

The Jews stayed in the land God had given them until 586 B.C. when a new world empire – Babylon – conquered the Jews and took them into Babylonian captivity. When the Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians, and conquered the city of Babylon in 539 B.C., the Jews were allowed to return to their land of Israel.

The Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, the Temple, and re-instituted the sacrificial system. During their Babylonian captivity they had learned how to built synagogues since they had no access to the Temple, and they had learned Aramaic, the business language of the known world. For the next five centuries, until the coming of Jesus Christ, the Jews remained in their land, building a nation and seeing the rise of various Jewish religious sects, including the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These years are the years “between the Testaments” (e.g. between the Old Testament and the new Testament). During this time, Persia was conquered by the Grecian Empire, and then the Greeks were conquered by the Roman empire.

Rome Rules the World

Around the time Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago, Rome ruled the world. The Romans began having trouble with that portion of the empire called Israel. The natives of Israel, a people called “Jews” (e.g. short for “Judeans” or people who descended from the family or tribe of Judah) were expecting a coming Messiah who would lead their little country to global prominence. The Jews were often resisted Roman rule, and they were in the habit of assembling unlawfully, protesting regularly, and arguing forcefully against Roman rule.
  
The Roman emperor raised a wary eye against the Jews and their seditious ways. Jewish religious leaders, knowing that Rome was threatened by any claim of a Jewish Messiah, used Rome’s fears for their own advantage to thwart the influence of a young Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus before the Roman governor Pilate and claimed that “This man says he is the Messiah, the King of the Jews!” Pilate acquiesced to the Jewish demand that Rome crucify him who had the audacity to claim himself “King of the Jews.”

Around four decades after Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross, a new Roman emperor could no longer ignore the ever-increasing Jewish rebellion against Rome. More Roman soldiers were tied up in Israel fighting sedition than anywhere else in the world, and the Roman emperor’s patience ran out. He needed his troops elsewhere, so he decided to handle the Jews once and for all. Nobody knows why the Roman emperor didn’t just kill the Jews, possibly because he was too superstitious to utterly obliterate them, fearing an offense against the gods.

Instead of killing the Jews, the Roman emperor decided to forcibly remove the Jews from their land using Roman legionnaires and relocating them to the far-flung corners of the Roman empire. In America during the 1820’s, the American empire did the same thing to the native Americans, in a forced relocation to “Indian Land” (Oklahoma) that we call “The Trail of Tears.” The Romans forcibly relocated the Jews in a long, sad journey that Jewish history calls the diaspora. The word diaspora comes from the Greek and means “scattering.” We get our English word dispersion from this Greek word. The diaspora begins in A.D. 70.

Judea Becomes Philistia (Palestine)

Judea (Iudaea) was the Roman name for the Land of Israel during the heyday of the Roman Empire. This meant not only the area called Judea in Israel today; (West Bank) it included the whole area ruled and/or chiefly inhabited by Jews. We can see this usage in various writers in Latin and Greek of that period. Consider Pliny, Suetonius, and Tacitus in Latin, and Plutarch as well as the geographers Strabo and Ptolemy in Greek. Judea stretched along both sides of the Jordan and included, besides Judea proper, most of the coastal plain, Samaria, most of the Galilee, the Golan Heights of today and considerable land to the east of there. The Romans called this land Iudaea, a translation of the Hebrew Judah.  

However, to spite the Jews, after the Diaspora, the Romans changed the land of the Jews to Palestinia (Palestine), in honor of the Philistia people (Canaanites) that were the mortal enemies of the Jews prior to Abraham. Palestine was a word Romans used to spite the Jews.

In the Jews’ absence from their former homeland beginning in A.D. 70, a now-empty patch of beachfront real estate on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea begins to fill up with people from Arabia. The Arabs migrate slowly to the former land called Israel. It was never their land in the beginning.  And there is no such thing as Palestinian people. It’s Arab people in the land of Israel, a land that the Romans began calling Palestine.

After the diaspora in A.D. 70, the Jews lived in little communities all over the world, but especially in Europe. The Romans had scattered these Jewish people to all over the Roman empire, and Europe is where most of the Roman Empire was located at the beginning of the diaspora.
Rather than Jewish culture and religion coming to an end through the diaspora, this forced exile from their homeland became a defining event in Jewish history

The diaspora became a crucial part of the Jewish heritage and tradition, a permanent fixture of their rituals and soon became prominent within their holy commentary on Scriptures, a book called the Talmud. For the past two thousand years, in a thousands of  little communities all over the world, Jewish fathers have passed to their sons,  and rabbis have passed to their synagogue congregations, the importance of remembering the diaspora.

There is no better example of the permanence of Israel culture than the contemporary existence of the Hebrew language, the same language Moses, David, Solomon and all the Jewish people have spoken for over 5,000 years. Latin, the language of the Romans, is the basis for French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. But nobody speaks Latin anymore. Only the Roman Catholic Church uses it in church services. People don’t speak it. Groups of medical students worldwide study it for their medical classes, but Latin is not a language of conversation.

Language Represents a Culture.

After being scattered by the Romans, the Jews learned the local languages and became a part of the local population. However, the rabbis kept the Hebrew language alive and the Jews used the language in their worship. Just as Christian monks kept knowledge and literacy alive through the Dark Ages, the rabbis used Hebrew in synagogue services and required all Jews to learn at least enough to actively participate in worship.

From the mid-1500's until well into the current century the dominant pattern in the world was European colonialism. First the Spanish, then Dutch and finally the British were the preeminent powers in the world -- challenged with varying degrees of success by likes of the French, Germans and Italians. The Jews stayed in the background, minding their own business.

No matter where the Jews settled, they were seen as just a little bit on the outside by virtue of their religion, their "secret" language of Hebrew and even their ethnicity.

Since the Jews were mostly prevented from holding public office, becoming military leaders or even entering institutions of higher learning. As a result, they'd entered the only field left open to them: business.

As it turned out, they'd seemed to have a knack for it, too: by the late nineteenth century Jews in Europe were widely perceived as being rich, mostly because many of them had entered jewelry and banking, being forced out of politics and government.

About this time a pro-Jewish political movement called Zionism arose in Europe. Its purpose was "to return the Jews to their rightful historical homeland.”

Here’s Where It Gets Complicated

For the past two thousand years, over 75 generations of Arabs have lived and died on that Eastern Mediterranean soil that the Arabs now called Palestine. These Arabs figured that they had a bit more right to determine who was going to live on what was now their homeland than a bunch of European nations which had still been a bunch of wild barbarian tribes when the Romans had booted the Jews out in the first place (the following is an excellent summary from an anonymous writer at http://www.wwco.com/religion/israel.php).

Why the Arabs Hate the Jews

One of those wild barbarian tribes, now calling itself the British, was perhaps a bit influenced in its thinking by Zionist arguments and by the idea that European Jewry was a rich and influential group one would do well to have one one's side. Besides, the British Empire was at the height of its power and glory: India was the jewel in its crown about which books by Rudyard Kipling were being written, Sherlock Holmes was stalking the streets of London, Stanley and Livingston were making their way around Africa and Queen Victoria was on the throne.

The sun never set upon the British Empire, she had the largest and most powerful navy in the world and by George, she'd do whatever the heck she bloody wanted to -- and without any guff from any bleeding Arab beggars! Besides, the whole point was academic: Palestine had been under the control of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish Muslims) for centuries, so the Arabs living along the Eastern Mediterranean had no say about anything anyway.

What harm would it do, then, to issue a meaningless policy statement in order to win the favour, support and financial attention of the European Jews? So it was that British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour issued the appropriately-named Balfour Declaration in support of an independent Jewish homeland to be located in Palestine.

The Jews loved it, of course, but it remained just that -- a meaningless policy statement. It was certainly forgotten a couple of decades later in 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by an anarchist in the city of Sarajevo. The French, Germans and Russians mobilised their troops and, before anyone knew what had happened, a million mothers' sons were charging out of their trenches only to cough their lungs up from the mustard gas or be mown down by machine-gun fire. The Great War, the War to End All Wars, had begun.

Trench warfare held the war at a stalemate in Europe for the better part of four years. British General George Allenby, in charge of the "Southern Front", was under pressure from his superiours at the War Office in London for some progress against the Ottoman Empire, a British enemy in the war and the power that controlled the Middle East as it had for centuries. By manipulating Arab tribesmen into fighting the Turks in exchange for tentative implications of Arab independence, Allenby ensured that by the end of the war the Middle East was British-held territory.

The League of Nations

Immediately after the war, the newly-created League of Nations, really just an old-boys' club of the same old European colonialist powers, legitimised continued occupation of territory captured by the victors in the war by ceding areas to their occupying victorious forces as "mandates". The idea was that the "big brother" nation would prepare the mandated area for eventual independence, but in practise it was colonialism by any other name... which still smelled just as bad.

Britain got the League of Nations mandate for the Middle East, which included Palestine. Zionist groups and Jews worldwide immediately began pressuring the British to live up to the promises they'd made decades earlier in the Balfour Declaration. If they did nothing the Jews would accuse them of going back on their word, but if they started airlifting massive numbers of Jews into Palestine the local Arabs would riot. They tried to go the middle ground and brought in a slow trickle by sea.

This went on for nearly thirty years while the British controlled the area, and the Arabs certainly did riot, more than a few times. The population of Jewish immigrants slowly swelled, living in an uneasy peace with the Arabs. Then one day a man with a severe little moustache started raving about how the Jews had ruined his country, the rest of Europe and the world besides. The joke was on him, of course; Adolf didn't realize that he himself had Jewish blood, but his countrymen bought it hook, line and sinker, and the Second World War was on.

During the war Palestine remained under British control, never seriously threatened by the massive tank battles in the North African desert between British General Bernard Montgomery and German Field Marshal Erwin 'The Desert Fox' Rommel. At war's end, though, the world was a very different place. All the 'great powers' of Europe were totally tapped out, shattered and economically devastated. Even England, which had resisted invasion, had taken a beating from German bombs.

Suddenly only one country had a healthy economy. Suddenly only one country had no domestic damage at all from the war. Suddenly only one country had the largest and most powerful navy in the world, and it wasn't England anymore. Suddenly only one country had the atomic bomb. Suddenly only one country had the undivided attention of every other country in the world, was calling the shots, could do whatever it wanted to and had the force to back up its foreign policy initiatives.

The United States started pressuring all former colonial powers to grant independence to their colonies. Her moral high ground for doing this was that she herself had been a colony and had had to fight for her independence, so she sympathized with other colonies that wanted independence. 

A more likely reason for doing this is that since colonies trade exclusively with their host countries, excluding other nations, the U.S. wanted to get those host countries out of those colonies as quickly as possible so that she could get access and start selling Coca-Cola and other fine American products.

They grumbled, but Britain and the other former colonial powers of Europe started vacating their colonies rapidly, not only because the United States was pressuring them to but also because they could no longer spare the troops, funds or resources to maintain those colonies when so much reconstruction needed to take place back in their home countries. Amongst others, Britain was making plans to vacate its League of Nations mandates in the Middle East -- including Palestine.

Modern Zionism

The world had been shocked, sickened and horrified beyond description when it had seen photographs and newsreels of the ghastly 'final solution' of the Nazis. Concentration camps liberated by the Americans had yielded mass graves, poison-gas showers, non-stop crematoria and living skeletons with haunted eyes. The carnage was so far beyond anything ever seen before that even conventional language did not have a word for it. A new word was created to describe it: genocide.

No one could conceive of anything that anyone could ever have done to deserve such a fate. The hearts of everyone on Earth went out to the Jews. Everyone felt guilty for not having stopped Hitler sooner, before six million Jews had gone to their deaths. Filled with shock, compassion, guilt, shame, remorse and regret, the world of 1945 could deny the Jews nothing.

The British were rapidly vacating the land of Palestine, the Jewish homeland of two thousand years ago. Many Jews had emigrated there during the last thirty years. Many European Jews were wandering around the continent as "Displaced Persons", sole survivors of their families or villages with nowhere to go. The world felt shamed and wanted to "do something for the Jews" to "make up" for what had happened. Some Jews themselves and other Zionists were clamouring about the Balfour Declaration, made by the British in a very different world over fifty years and two world wars ago.

Almost before the British were out of Palestine, the United States stepped in and declared that the area would once again be the Jewish homeland. The Americans were trying not only to make up for the Second World War, but to correct an ancient historical wrong. Huge waves of Jewish immigrants flocked to their ancient ancestral homeland.

As these European "displaced persons" found a home once again, they created a whole new flood of "displaced persons" -- Arabs whose umpteenth great-grandfather had farmed the same land 75 generatons ago, forced to leave because a newly-arrived European Jew had become the new owner. These Arabs, today called the Palestinians, left in droves.

It took two years from wars' end for the British to finish vacating and for the brief period of American assistance with Jewish immigration to conclude. Jews all over the world had been delighted with the idea; those who didn't emigrate to live there were quite generous financially. The United States gave much financial and military assistance so that in 1947 the area which had been known as Palestine for two thousand years declared itself the state of Israel.

The brand-new state was promptly attacked at the same time by several of its outraged Arab neighbours. They themselves had been under the boot of the Ottomans for centuries, then had had to endure the British, but now that the entire Middle East had looked as though it were finally going to be free and self-determining, here had come the meddling Americans to eject the Palestinians —brother Arabs— and move Jews in in their place!

Aside from this strange, offensive new outpost there were no Jews for thousands of miles around — only Arabs. For the Arabs it was like surgically transplanting a tuft of blond hair onto a head full of black. They saw these Jews sitting proudly on land that had been Arab land for two thousand years, while the 'rightful' Palestinian-Arab owners sat shivering in refugee camps just outside the borders of the new state. Outraged and offended, they attacked with their combined military force.

Unfortunately for the Arab states that attacked in 1947, U.S. weapons and training that had been provided to the Israeli military allowed Israel to trounce them. In other Arab-Israeli conflicts (1956, 1967 and 1973), almost always started by the Arabs, the same has been the result: one was called the Six-Day War because that's all the time it took the Israelis to win, while another was called the Yom Kippur War because the Arabs tried to win by surprise-attacking on the holiest Jewish day.

The previous Palestinian inhabitants haven't been sitting idly in their refugee camps on Israel's borders for fifty years while fellow Arabs from other Arab countries have been fighting and dying in attempts to win back their land for them. The Palestinians formed the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), a terrorist group that has been bombing Israel and conducting other terrorist raids on her for decades.

For many years now Yasser Arafat has been the leader of the PLO, and thus Public Enemy Number One of the Israeli state. He was controversial in the 1980s for once wearing his customary pistol on a visit to the Pope and because the United States didn't want to grant him a visa to enter the U.S. so he could speak at the United Nations.

The first real progress in the Arab-Israeli situation was made by President Carter, who got Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to sign a peace treaty. We later found out what ordinary Arabs thought of that when some of Sadat's own people assassinated him as he stood on the reviewing stand during a parade.

The fact that Israel recently allowed the Gaza Strip to become an 'autonomous Arab zone' with its own police force and Yasser Arafat (Israel's Public Enemy Number One), of all people, as its leader, is probably the most encouraging move towards peace since the Americans started the whole mess in the 1940s. Of course, we found out what ordinary Israelis thought of that when a former member of his own security forces assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the guy who made the Gaza Strip thing possible, as he moved through a crowded public square a few months ago.

The Oslo Agreement

Since historic agreements signed in Oslo, Norway in September of 1993 between the Israelis and the PLO set the Gaza Strip aside for the Palestinians, the PLO and its leader have been kept busy with the headaches of self-rule. Those Palestinians and other Arabs who felt that this arrangement was not good enough and that there was still more for which Israel must answer felt that the PLO had gone soft and sold out; they became dissatisfied with the PLO as the representative of their interests.

These extreme anti-Israelis formed a group called Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Islamic force composed of Palestinians and other sympathetic Arabs. Backed by the sympathetic Islamic countries of Iran and Syria, since the 1993 Oslo accords Hezbollah has set up shop in Israel's chaotic bordering neighbour to the North, Lebanon, which has been paralysed for decades by civil war.

The situation in Lebanon is so fractious and its government so weak that Hezbollah has actually taken over the running of schools and hospitals in some areas, gaining it popular support amongst some Lebanese. Its primary purpose for existence being to inflict harm upon Israel, however, in April 1996 Hezbollah began raining fire down upon its hated enemy in the form of Katoushka rockets.

Surrounded as it is by hostile neighbours who would prefer to see the blood of all its citizens running through the sands, Israel has perhaps understandably developed a 'massive retaliation' policy over the years. To guerrilla attacks by the Egyptian-backed Palestinian terrorist group fedayeen ("self-sacrificers", the predecessor of the PLO and Hezbollah) in the 1950s, Israel invaded Egyptian army posts in the dead of night, shooting hundreds of Egyptian troops as they slept, and on 29 October 1956 actually invaded Egypt herself, taking the entire Sinai Peninsula from her.

In Israel's belief that she must show a tough face in order to deter aggression, she has not hesitated even to operate far outside her home region. On 3 July 1976 she reacted to the hijacking of an airplane containing her Olympic team by storming the plane with a massive assault force as it sat on an airport runway in Entebbe, Uganda, a country well into Africa and decidedly not in Israel's home region, the Middle East. Israel had refused to negotiate or even talk to the hijackers, it attacked without regard to casualties and it took no prisoners. The message was clear: don't mess with us.

When terrorists attacked Israel from bases in Southern Lebanon in March of 1978, Israel responded by invading Lebanon. When Mossad, Israel's secret intelligence service, learned in 1981 that its neighbouring country of Iraq (with its new leader Saddam Hussein) had an atomic reactor near its capital city of Baghdad that would enable it to manufacture nuclear weapons, Israeli jets invaded Iraqi airspace, flew on over to Baghdad one fine day and blew the atomic reactor to Kingdom Come.

When Israel's ambassador to Great Britain was wounded in a PLO terrorist attack on the streets of London —just one man, mind you— Israel responded by launching a massive, all-out, coordinated land, sea and air attack against PLO bases in Lebanon on 6 June 1982. By 14 June they had the PLO trapped and surrounded in Lebanon's capital city of Beirut and were pummeling them into oblivion with round-the-clock bombing.

If Ronnie Ray-gun hadn't yanked on the leash of his Israeli pit bull and forced him to wait while the United States Navy evacuated what was left of the PLO from Beirut, the Israelis almost certainly would've done there and then to the Palestinians what the Romans hadn't done to the Jews almost two thousand years earlier. In any case, the message "don't mess with us" was once again clear.

Israel's Right to Exist

With the election of Yitzhak Rabin as Israeli prime minister in 1992 on a campaign of peace and reconciliation with Israel's Arab neighbours, it looked as though perhaps such stiff reprisals might no longer be necessary. In the historic Oslo accords of 1993 the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist and Israel acknowledged the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip and the West bank of the Jordan river were designated as Palestinian homelands, and Israel and Jordan (the country) signed a treaty ending their 46-year state of war in 1994. Things were really looking up.

A few months ago, however, we found out what at least some ordinary Israelis thought of all this 'peace with the Arabs' stuff when a former member of his own security forces assassinated Rabin as he moved through a crowded public square. Shimon Peres became Israel's new prime minister and tried to continue as best he could his predecessor's policies of peace and reconciliation with Arabs.

When the extreme Palestinian-Arab Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group Hezbollah started firing salvos of deadly Katoushka rockets at Israel from its guerrilla bases in Lebanon in April of 1996, frightened, disappointed Israelis began to cry loudly to their government that perhaps those ingrate Arabs would only take advantage of peace and reconciliation, would only understand the language of force. Perhaps, some said, the only sure policy for security was the old 'massive retaliation'.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, facing an upcoming election and terrorist rockets raining fire down on those who would be deciding whether or not to vote him into office again, didn't take long to decide. On Thursday, 11 April 1996, Israeli ground-based planes and helicopter gunships operating from navy vessels in the Mediterranean launched a massive, non-stop bombing assault on Lebanon.

As of Wednesday, 24 April 1996 the Israeli bombing is still going full-force... but Hezbollah rocket attacks from Israel against Lebanon continue unabated. The Israelis, who have code-named their bombing campaign "Operation Grapes of Wrath", pledge to continue it until Hezbollah's rocket attacks cease. In years to come it may be Israel who will taste the sour grapes, since its military offensive in the first six short days already produced 800,000 homeless refugees in Lebanon -- many of whom will probably become embittered towards Israel and provide excellent new recruits for Hezbollah.

On Monday, 15 April 1996 the United Nations Security Council in New York spent the entire day debating the situation but in the end could reach no decisions. United States Ambassador to the United Nations Madeline Albright made it clear that the U.S. position was that Israel's actions were appropriate and justifiable, and implied rather obviously that the U.S. would use its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to block any punitive measures the council might attempt.

The reactions of Syria and Iran, the two Islamic Arab countries which helped establish Hezbollah in the first place and continue to fund and supply her, have been no surprise: they have loudly decried that Israel is committing a monstrous crime against humanity and must be stopped. Israel, for its part, has pointed out that both Hitler and Hezbollah launched attacks trying to kill Jews, and reminds the international community what the countries of the world felt was necessary to do about Hitler. With all this rhetoric, the average confused bystander surely must be wondering what to believe.

Summary

Two thousand years ago the Romans committed a great wrong against the Jewish people. One hundred years ago the British made a promise that that wrong would be made right. Fifty years ago, after the Germans committed another great wrong against the Jewish people, the Americans tried to make up for it by honouring England's promise. In the process, they committed a great wrong against the Palestinians, who even today still sit shivering in their refugee camps.

The Palestinian Arabs hate the Jews for taking away their homes. The rest of the Arabs hate the Jews for taking away the homes of their brethren. All the Arabs hate the Americans for what they did to the Palestinians. So now today, in a region consisting of dozens of Muslim countries twice as wide as the United States, stretching from Morocco on the West coast of North Africa to Pakistan on the Indian Subcontinent, everyone speaks a form of Arabic, obeys Islamic law and worships a single god most recently revealed to him by Muhammad the last Prophet...

...everyone, that is, except for those living on one tiny little strip of land, forty-seven miles long. For two thousand years the people there also spoke Arabic, obeyed Islamic law and worshipped the god most recently revealed by Muhammad. Now, however, those people are shivering in camps on the borders of what used to be their land. Today the people on that strip of land speak Hebrew, follow Talmudic law and worship the god of Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca and Sarah.

It has been suggested that there are historical parallels between the Arab-Israeli situation and the plight of the native inhabitants of North America (Native Americans / American Indians). Very few people are suggesting today that everyone whose ancestors came to North America after A.D. 1500 should go back where they came from so that the Native Americans can have their lands back. Why, then, was Palestine "returned" to the Jews? We were all taught as children that two wrongs don't make a right, so why did the U.S. try to right a two-thousand-year-old historical wrong by wronging the Palestinians?

Such speculation, however, is merely crying over historically spilled milk: wouldn't removing the Israelis yet again, or blasting them out of existence as the Arabs tried so many times to do, simply be more of the same? Viewing the Middle East as it is today, should we not seek to learn from the mistakes of the past? Shouldn't we seek to learn not only from the mistakes of the Romans and the Nazis, but also from the mistakes we ourselves as Americans made a mere half-century ago when we sought to offer a quick fix to someone else's problems? Good intentions are not enough; surely only listening to and understanding the problems of those who must LIVE there, and then giving help IF it is requested, will finally bring peace.