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Earlier today I was glancing through the newspaper and saw this blurb:

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Defending his brand of world politics, President Barack Obama said Sunday that he “strengthens our hand” by reaching out to enemies of the United States and making sure that the nation is a leader, not a lecturer, of democracy.

Source

Now no one would accuse me of being an Obama fan, and most definitely I don’t like the policies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Cuba’s Fidel Castro. I have spoken out against leftist dictators and power grabbers in the past. Just not my cup of tea.

And I don’t care for Obama’s stances on most issues. I hate it because I really want to like his policies, but cannot really find them compatible with the way I was taught. (My history, economics and government teacher was my favorite, and he influenced me too much it seems!)

That said, I read the above-mentioned paragraph from the article and considered things differently based on a better understanding I have gained in recent months from talking with others outside of the United States. Additionally and more importantly, I have been rereading the Bible and have been reminded time and again of how Jesus lived. It’s not exactly the same as most so-called Christians live today. Let’s see how He told us to treat our enemies.

Matthew 5

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

And now see here… this is Joel Rosenberg. A forty-something man who grew up with an Orthodox Jewish father who later accepted Jesus. He considers himself an evangelical Christian and has a strong support of Israel. I keep tabs on his blog and was amazed in early April when I read this concerning North Korea’s plans to test a missile.

The danger, experts say, is that the missile could reach Alaska or Hawaii. It’s not clear if it could reach Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego or another Pacific coast American city. But the missile’s very existence poses a real threat to U.S. national security. What if it is carrying a nuclear warhead? What if the “test” is actually designed to launch an attack that could blindside us? We shouldn’t be taking any chances. We should take out the missile and its launch pad immediately and send a crystal clear message to Pyongyang — and, by extension, to Tehran and other rogue nations — that serious threats to our security will be dealt with firmly and decisively. Some might say that taking pre-emptive military action against an enemy that endangers you is overreacting. But wouldn’t it have been better if the U.S. had taken decisive pre-emptive action against al Qaeda before 9/11? (emphasis mine)

He wants us to go into another country and take out their missile? Are our troops not already stretched thin enough? Do we really need to start another war? Do we need to be involved in another global police mission? North Korea is a godless, cruel nation, but why this approach? I don’t understand this fear-mongering mentality! Mr. Rosenberg, is not God capable of caring for the world on His own? Does He really need America’s help in policing the world and making sure everyone behaves? Yes, I realize you think this will keep America safe and maybe I am wrong, but still. I am just tired of this hardliner evangelical stance on our enemies. So what’s wrong with talking to them? Read again what Jesus said about our enemies.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. ”

So my question is this: are we Americans first or Christ followers? And if you say, “definitely Jesus is first in my life” then prove it! Start loving your enemies and praying for them. Why do sanctions, violence and retaliation have to always be our options? Why this “you’re either with us or against us” approach to our enemies? I don’t see the “let’s bomb ’em to protect our interests” plan promoted by the One Who came to serve others and redeem mankind. And that includes His enemies.

Let’s seek to imitate our Savior — pursue peace, love and serve others, stand up for the oppressed.

Let your light shine in this world so that others will see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (see Mt. 5:16)

Are our lights shining? Does the world see the good that we do in the name of Christ or do they say “Oh, those are the Christians! See how tough they are on their enemies?”

Sadly, this is the mentality many of them have. We are not accurately representing our Lord. We call ourselves Christians when we are nothing like Jesus Christ.

By the way, we overcome evil with GOOD! (Romans 12:21)

For more on our adventures & the amazing people we met in Syria, please visit my personal blog.  This is one I left there a few days ago.

We would often leave Old Damascus by hailing taxis from Bab Sharqi, which means Eastern Gate. It’s one of the seven ancient city-gates of Damascus and the one we saw every day as it was closest to the hostel. We could leave this gate by car or walk along the outside of the wall. It’s along this wall that we could reach our hostel by ladder.

Bab Sharqi is a short walk from the church
that honors the apostle Paul
(See second & third pictures here.)

This is a view across the road.

I think the sign says something about Coke being good with food. Some people boycott American products because they believe our major corporations pay high taxes and they know Israel receives billions of US tax money. They do not want to support their enemy in the slightest way so they avoid American goods.

Here is a car wash across the street from the hostel. Note the cute little yellow taxi. We rode in those nearly every day. Most all of the taxi drivers were sociable and many said one word we understood well: “Obama!” One driver asked Samer if we were sympathetic to the Arabs whereas another declared us “friendly” (because of our smiles) and wished he had a day off so he could spend it with us. He is the one who didn’t want to charge us for taking us to Anas Restaurant. (Don’t worry, we paid him.) Taxi rides were cheap in Syria and bus rides were even cheaper.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, announced VERY clearly that he refuses  any kind of “concessions” to Palestinians and said,”  Those who want peace should prepare for war and be strong.” And his new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has always strongly opposed the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state. His most generous offer for the Palestinians is a promise of a better economic situation under the Israeli occupation and after a while he may think of giving them “self-governing”. Clearly this new radical government is a government of war and refuses to admit the legitimacy of any Palestinian state and NO ONE in the Western world is even threatening them of isolation unless they change their radical views like they have always demanded from the Palestinians.

On the contrary, shortly after this radical government took office in Israel, the U.S. State Department announced,” The United States is committed to working with the Israeli government to work for peace and stability in the region and will remain unalterably committed to Israel’s security.” What kind of hypocrisy is this? Why the double standards? Why are the Palestinians asked to admit the legitimacy of their enemies’ state when their enemies refuse to acknowledge any solution based on establishing a Palestinian state?

I think it’s pretty safe to say that no one would accuse me of being a fan of Saddam Hussein.  Any leader who harms his own people and punishes erring ones by allowing sewage in their water lines is rather despicable in my book.  And don’t get me started on his playboy sons and their treatment of women.  In the beginning I was for the war in Iraq.  Perhaps I was living in my imaginary world where USA represents all that’s right in the world and we had to fight off those evil dictators and rescue the poor Iraqis.  Sure, it’ll be great to liberate Iraq.  Then those people will be free like us!  Whoo hoo….get ’em, boys!

For one thing I thought this was going to be a remove-Saddam-and-get-out deal.  NEVER did I think we’d still be there to this day.  I have been tired of the war for, oh, years now.  We quickly got to Baghdad, even found Saddam, but why are we still there?

Reading things outside of the American media has opened my eyes to some of the realities.  The imaginary world has been shattered and I’m left facing the ugly reality.  Perhaps my more enlightened Americans will berate me for this and show me where I’m wrong, and that’s all well and good. But I’m just telling it how I see it after listening to people outside my normal circle. Maybe they are feeding me a lie and I’m falling for it.  Who knows? But somehow I don’t think so.

For starters America is not making fewer terrorists by it’s preemptive wars.  No matter how we justify it, we don’t win friends by tearing up a sovereign nation.  And staying there.  For years.  If we were so wanting to truly help the Iraqis, why did we use weapons that have created so much lasting damage? Not just to buildings, but to people … I’m talking about weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) which, by the way, has not only caused a rise in birth defects and rates of cancer in Iraq, but also among our own soldiers!  So why all that just to remove Saddam from power? Did we have to leave this nasty gift for the Iraqis to deal with?  Some reports say DU can affect generations of people giving Iraqis a great reminder of what evil American WMDs can do.  We didn’t find WMDs in Iraq. They may have been there and moved elsewhere, but that’s beside the point now.  Sadly, America brought her own.

And in so doing we have given evidence of our own brand of terrorism … something that Iraq won’t soon forget. As their children are born with defects and suffer higher rates of cancer, don’t think for a minute they will be blessing the liberators from the West.  I see them instead simmering in their hatred and desiring justice.  Who will avenge them of their losses? Their shame?  And we wonder why the ranks of the terrorists grow.

Sadly, we are our own worst enemy in this (recently renamed) “war on terror.”

For more information see


The Depleted Uranium Cover-up

offense

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Israeli-Army-T-Shirts-Mock-Killing-Palestinian-Women-And-Children-During-Gaza-Offensive/Article/200903315245946?f=rss

The Israeli army is at the centre of a second controversy over the moral conduct of its soldiers in as many days.

The t-shirts were printed for Israeli soldiers at the end of periods of deployment or training courses and were discovered by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

One, printed for a platoon of Israeli snipers depicts an armed Palestinian pregnant women caught in the crosshairs of a rifle, with the disturbing caption in English: “1 shot 2 kills”.

Another depicts a child carrying a gun also in the centre of a target.

“The smaller, the harder,” read the words on the t-shirt.

According to a soldier interviewed by the newspaper, the message has a double meaning: “It’s a kid, so you’ve got a little more of a problem, morally and also the target is smaller.”

Another shows an Israeli soldier blowing up a mosque and reads “Only God forgives”.

Above a ninja figure, yet another shirt bears the slogan “Won’t chill until I confirm a kill”.

The revelations, coming so soon after Israel’s offensive in Gaza in which hundreds of civilians were killed – many of them women and children – are causing outrage.

Perhaps the most shocking design shows a Palestinian mother weeping next to her dead baby’s grave, also in the crosshairs of a rifle.

It suggests it would have been better if the child had never been born, with the slogan “Better use Durex”.

image20

I just want to quote the following lines from this article and this one with no comments; these testimonies are not an Arab propaganda but revelations from Israeli soldiers themselves who participated in the war in Gaza:

Israel’s military was rocked on Thursday by Gaza war veterans’ accounts of soldiers’ killings of civilians and allegations that deep contempt for Palestinians pervaded its ranks.

The revelations, compiled by the head of an Israel military academy who declared that he was “shocked” at the findings, come as international rights groups are calling for independent inquiries into the conduct of both sides in the three-week Israeli offensive against Palestinian Islamists.

That’s the beauty of Gaza. You see a man walking, he doesn’t have to have a weapon, and you can shoot him,” one soldier told Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy, who asked him why a company commander ordered an elderly woman to be shot.

One of the soldiers, an infantry squad leader, recalled an incident in which he said an army sharpshooter killed a Palestinian mother and her two children who turned the wrong way after troops ordered them out of their house.

“The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to their right. One mother and her two children didn’t understand and went to the left … The sharpshooter saw (them) approaching him, closer than the lines he was told no one should pass. He shot them.”

“I don’t know whether he first shot at their feet or not, but he killed them,” the soldier said.

The squad leader said most of the men under his command felt “the lives of Palestinians … is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers, so as far as they are concerned, they can justify it that way”.

The same unnamed NCO said that his commanding officer ordered soldiers on to a rooftop to shoot an old woman crossing a main street during the fighting, which a Palestinian rights groups said left 1,434 people dead, 960 of them civilians.

I don’t know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious, I don’t know her story,” the NCO said. “I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out… It was cold-blooded murder.”

Describing vandalism carried out by soldiers, the squad leader said: “To write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can — I think this is the main thing, to understand how much the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has fallen in the realm of ethics.”

Another disturbing element reported by the soldiers was the role of military rabbis in distributing booklets that framed the fighting as a religious war. “All these articles had a clear message: we are the Jewish people, we have come to the land by miraculous means, and now we have to fight to remove the Gentiles who are getting in our way and preventing us from occupying the Holy Land… a great many soldiers had a feeling throughout this operation of a religious war,” said one soldier.



Today I will tell you how we got to our hostel in Old Damascus. First of all, here is a view from the street which runs in front of the hostel. Yes, that’s a horse-drawn cart among the crowd of taxis and mini-buses and other vehicles. I would enjoy peering out of the window just to see who was happening by at any given moment.


This is the long way to our hostel. It’s about ten minutes from the busy road you just saw. Typically taxis would drop us off at Bab Sharqi (the tall white thing in the center of first picture),

and we’d walk down these narrow streets in the Bab Touma neighborhood

which cars and buses would brave at times.

Welcome to The Damascus Hostel! This is probably the most interesting place I’ve ever stayed in. We met people from Australia, Turkey, the United States, British Columbia, Lattakia, London, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France and Amsterdam.

The other way to our hostel was a bit more exciting. Here Andrew will demonstrate. Starting at the busy road (pic 1),

climb over the fence

ring for the ladder if it’s not already down & then climb up here.


Our room was in the tower. That is the window I’d look out of to see the sights on the busy street below. One of my favorite memories was seeing cleaners washing the street with a big water truck around 12:30 or 1 AM. I wish I’d been able to photograph that, but I figured I’d only get a glare from the window.

Later I’ll share pictures from within these hostel walls, but now you know how to get into the place.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

An American friend recently told me about the Boston Tea Party, an act admired by many even now for its show of defiance against foreigners imposing their will on the American people. I considered this new knowledge of American history while noticing how many of my American friends strongly oppose their government taking more control of matters in their daily lives like revamping the health care system and bailing out banks and big businesses. They claim things will get worse once inefficient, big government gets involved. Case in point, the failing Social Security system, right? These Americans really want less government intrusion in their families and in their personal decisions.

If you oppose YOUR government – elected by you – being so involved in your daily lives, why do you expect others to accept its involvement in their lives although they did not elect it? Why should the Iraqis accept the government the US thinks is best for that country? Do you self-described conservative and libertarian types not oppose YOUR own politicians meddling in your healthcare system and definitions of marriage? Why then do you think it’s fine for these same politicians- who were NOT elected here – to meddle and destroy and tell us what to do? Why the double standards? You want liberty and justice for all, but “all” means only Americans, right? Why do the Americans have the right to arrest more than 19,000 Iraqis without trials? Why do they have the right to kill and wound hundreds of thousands in Iraq and elsewhere without anyone holding them accountable? Would the Americans accept their own government doing these kind of things to them?

Why expect others to accept what you do not wish to accept yourself? We did not elect your politicians.

Stay tuned….Samer is working on a great post, I hope. In the meantime something else from my personal blog about our time in Syria.

Today I will tell you about one restaurant we went to. Sorry, but I don’t know the name. I think this was my least favorite place, and it’s not that this place was bad. Rather the others were just so delish! We’d just had a wonderful time at the mountain overlook where we’d seen Damascus at night. There were 7 of us in 2 cars so we stopped by a cute restaurant for dinner. Andrew was in his gusto mood to try anything the guys recommended, whereas I was Ms. Picky and not so apt to try new stuff. I have nut allergies so I have an excuse. And after looking at this menu, I was glad I was picky. I just don’t see this stuff advertised in most restaurants I frequent in the States. OK…none of them. Can’t say I’ve seen brains, kidneys, livers, testicles or tongues at O’Charley’s, Ruby Tuesday or Cracker Barrel. Maybe they are there and I just missed ’em! (Gotta hate that!) Seriously, brains with egg?

Soooooo, I looked at this menu and probably had one of those deer-in-the-headlights faces … something like 8-/, but thankfully, I found out “shish tawook” was similar to grilled chicken …. ahhhh, something safe. *whew*

The offending menu. I mean LOOK at it!

Ol’ Andrew was gung ho to try the local cuisine, but found fatteh wasn’t his thing. Can you guess which bowl was his? Thankfully the fries were good and I gave him some of my chicken because, well, I’m just sweet like that, ya know?


Oh, here we are! See how happy I am with my chicken? I was just overwhelmingly glad I wasn’t eating brain salad. I’m lovin’ Andrew’s face at the prospect of having to finish off that bowl of Shami goodness! (evil laugh)

(Aren’t y’all wondering about this stupid hat I wore nearly every day? C’mon, admit it! I look like a character from The Cat in the Hat, right? Ha!)

I’d already eaten all the chicken before I remembered to take a picture. (Thankfully, Samer took the one above and sent it to me in time for this post.) Mushrooms aren’t my thing … so I gave them to Sami since he loves them.

And here are our dinner and looking-at-Damascus-at-night companions.
Mohammed and Ahmad (aka Jake)


Basheer, Samer and Sami

Notice the pictures in the background … we saw those e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e!

Pictures from February 3, 2009
Damascus, Syria

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