In the Spotlight

The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas

The publisher of The Last Palestinian touts it as the first book in English to profile Mahmoud Abbas, the man who succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and has since been the titular head of the Palestinian national movement. Astonishingly, the publisher’s claim appears to be true, and co-authors Grant Rumley and Amir Tibon have indeed delivered a crisp catalogue of the events and players that have brought Abbas and the Palestinians to where they are today.

Recent

Jerusalem Day

A Tale of Two Jerusalem Days

Jerusalem Day
May 16, 2017
A couple of years ago I found myself changing my flight to Jerusalem to include a side-trip to Jordan, so that I could meet a friend-of-a-cousin-of-a-friend who had offered to help me with my research. It was difficult to find anything about the man I was to meet, but among the precious snippets I could glean was that he had founded an organization called the Jerusalem Day Society headquartered in Amman. And there was a review in Publishers Weekly indicating he was was a fabulist and an anti-Semite.  Who to trust?
Ground Zero Mosque supporters

Making Moderate Islam by Rosemary R. Corbett

Islam in America
January 9, 2017
Nobody seemed to care that an upscale Islamic community center was being proposed for lower Manhattan until 2010 when Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post christened it “The Ground Zero Mosque”. Sporting its new sobriquet, the proposed project made the familiar leap from scandal rag to cable news to becoming a fetish in America’s culture war.

Other Essays and Reviews

Jerusalem Day
Jerusalem Day

A Tale of Two Jerusalem Days

May 16, 2017

A couple of years ago I found myself changing my flight to Jerusalem to include a side-trip to Jordan, so that I could meet a friend-of-a-cousin-of-a-friend who had offered to help me with my research. It was difficult to find anything about the man I was to meet, but among the precious snippets I could…

Ground Zero Mosque supporters
Islam in America

Making Moderate Islam by Rosemary R. Corbett

January 9, 2017

Nobody seemed to care that an upscale Islamic community center was being proposed for lower Manhattan until 2010 when Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post christened it “The Ground Zero Mosque”. Sporting its new sobriquet, the proposed project made the familiar leap from scandal rag to cable news to becoming a fetish in America’s culture war.…

Sari Nusseibeh The Story of Reason in Islam
Authors and Books

The Story of Reason in Islam by Sari Nusseibeh

November 14, 2016

As a Westerner for whom the intellectual history of Islam is something of a mystery, reading Sari Nusseibeh’s timely and sweeping new book was like swimming on the surface of an unfamiliar ocean. This delightful survey is packed with intriguing details of what the giants of Islamic thought struggled with and argued about, but ultimately…

Mandelbaum Gate Jerusalem
20th Century Palestine

Kai Bird’s Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

February 5, 2016

While doing background reading on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, I came across Kai Bird's poignant and insightful account of his childhood as the son of American consular officials who served in Israel and Palestine, and who later moved their family to a new assignment in Saudi Arabia in the mid-60's and early…

Palestinian Opinion Survey Flag
Opinion Poll

Infographic: New Survey of Palestinian opinion

February 13, 2016

It can be a startling for Westerners to see a scientific poll of Palestinian residents asking, among other things, if they are in favor of a third intifada, but it is an improvement over the not-too-distant past when far too few people cared what Palestinians thought. When the first intifada erupted in December of 1987 it…

Boole Trinity
Christian Theology

George Boole, the Holy Trinity, and the Birth of the Computer

November 9, 2016

Since it first emerged in the early days of Christianity, the concept of the Holy Trinity— Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three components of a single God-head— has been a head-scratcher for non-Christians and an unending source of conflict within the Church. The concept was already rattling around among the earliest Church Fathers in…

recounting battle of little big horn
Christian Zionism

The Persistence of Myth

August 9, 2015

While working on a chapter on Jerusalem during the British Mandate (1917-1948) I ran into one of the private micro-dramas I assume most writers run into and that I learned long ago nobody else is really interested in. But as I thought about it more, there seemed to be a lesson for me that I…

Charlie Hebdo Fields of Blood
Politics & Religion

Reading Fields of Blood while watching Charlie Hebdo

January 8, 2015

I know the sorrow I feel for those murdered in Paris - the creative artists, their colleagues and those killed trying to protect them - is shared by a massive international host who revere the norms of civil society and are shocked by the barbarity of the assailants. The attacks were nothing if not an…

picture of old Qurans being treated
al Haram al-Sharif

Inside an Islamic document restoration facility on al Haram al-Sharif

February 26, 2015

On a recent trip to Jerusalem, I got an unexpected and fascinating tour of a facility just steps away from the Dome of the Rock that is dedicated to restoring old Islamic documents. My host was my new friend Mouhannad, whose family was graciously assisting me with my research and who works as a document restorer in…

Trump Theologian The Humanist Noah Kennedy
Politics & Religion

Donald Trump, Theologian

February 24, 2016

Last week James Carroll wrote a sensitive piece in the New Yorker (“The Radical Meaning of Pope Francis’s Visit to Juarez”) about the testy exchange between Pope Francis and Donald Trump regarding immigration. Midway through the brief article and on his way to making the point that the pope held the ethical high ground in the…

Barbara Tuchman 1971
20th Century Palestine

Encountering Bible and Sword by Barbara Tuchman

January 28, 2015

Last weekend I faced a solitary thousand-mile roundtrip drive from the Bay Area to San Diego down the largely featureless California Central Valley, a chore that became a delight as I spent the time listening to a book I’d never read, Bible and Sword, by a writer I’ve long admired, Barbara Tuchman. (more…)

Herodium Wikipedia
Archaeology

Ze’ev Herzog and the historicity of the Bible

May 29, 2015

To what extent can we reasonably treat the stories of the Bible as actual historical events? On a recent visit to Tel Aviv, I had a fascinating interview with Dr. Ze'ev Herzog, a distinguished Israeli archaeologist and a leading figure in the debate regarding the "historicity" of the Hebrew Bible, or what Christians call the Old Testament.…

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Herodium Wikipedia

Ze’ev Herzog and the historicity of the Bible

Archaeology
May 29, 2015
To what extent can we reasonably treat the stories of the Bible as actual historical events? On a recent visit to Tel Aviv, I had a fascinating interview with Dr. Ze’ev Herzog, a distinguished Israeli [...]

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