By Arlene Bridges Samuels
Author Joel C. Rosenberg’s latest book links his front row seat to history with his page-turning style. It’s as if he stepped into one of his previous sixteen thrillers. However, his newest book is not a novel. It is real.
Joel’s conversations since 2016 with key Arab leaders have given him first-hand observations into the seismic shifts taking place in the Middle East. Could those shifts signal peace?
That’s one of the issues Joel C. Rosenberg addresses in his latest book, Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East. In an interview earlier this month on The 700 Club, Rosenberg sees two factions at work in the Middle East. The negative one is that Iran is “dangerously close” to nuclear weapons, which could lead to a “nuclear 9/11 and a second Holocaust of Israel.” The positive one is that the Abraham Accords offer evidence of “huge positive tectonic change in the region—of attitudes toward Jews, towards Israel, and towards Christians.”
Enemies and Allies—released on September 7—joins the author’s impressive output of 16 novels and four nonfiction works. This collection of interviews with key political figures of our day—culled from five years of research—offers an insider’s look at events in the Middle East, and what new alliances may mean for the future of this volatile region. In his book, Rosenberg has skillfully fashioned first-person meetings with Arab leaders into another genre—mixing groundbreaking, off-the-record conversations into an intriguing format that makes new developments in Middle East history an adventure.
Joel’s five-year journey has taken him to meetings in royal palaces, beginning with a surprising invitation in 2016 from Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The monarch invited Joel and his wife for a five-day visit after reading Joel’s novel The First Hostage, which included the king. In describing that remarkable event, Joel says, “The king of a sovereign nation read one of my books! Check that off my ‘Things I never thought would happen’ list.”
A series of meetings then evolved over the next several years where, by invitation, Joel organized small groups of evangelical Christian leaders to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah, United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Reading the details of how God threaded together these remarkable meetings where American evangelical leaders played a groundbreaking part in discussions is a fascinating, history-making story.
One of the most significant moments transpired in 2018, when a group met with Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. Joel recalls, “When we sat in his palace, he told us he was going ‘to make peace with Israel.’ We were sitting on a huge news story and yet the ground rules at the time were that the conversation was off the record. We couldn’t go out and tell everybody another Arab country—the first Gulf Arab country—is going to make peace with Israel. We kept our word.”
After his publisher sent me a copy of Enemies and Allies, I interviewed Joel via phone. We first met in 2009 at Old Ebbits Grill, a D.C. landmark eatery when I worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Over lunch with Joel and several of his colleagues, we enjoyed wide-ranging discussions about Israel and the Middle East. He had already penned his first novel, The Last Jihad, which was written months before 9/11 and published in 2002, as well as four other thrillers. I later invited him to speak at the annual AIPAC Christian Delegate Dinner. We’ve continued good conversations since then, running into each other at National Religious Broadcasters conventions and Christian Media summits hosted by Israel’s Government Press Office.
Rosenberg’s resume is packed with impressive credentials. With five million books already sold, he is a New York Times best-selling author and founder of a humanitarian charity, The Joshua Fund. In 2020, he became editor-in-chief of two Middle East news websites: All Israel News and All Arab News. With his newest book, he achieves the rightly deserved descriptor of “historian.”
I have read all of Joel’s books, some of them twice. After absorbing Enemies and Allies, it is easy for me to recommend that this non-fiction book should be required reading in every middle and high school, home school, university, mainstream media, for pastors’ sermon prep, Sunday school classes, and small group Bible studies. It is replete with facts and an extensive bibliography—a captivating discourse on recent Middle East history.
Maintaining the confidences shared by Arab leaders, Joel has now, in timely fashion, disclosed little-known facts and conversations that took place prior to the Abraham Accords ceremony on the White House lawn on September 15, 2020. As he said in his 700 Club interview, “It’s the first book ever to take you inside those palaces—and you meet and hear on the record from some of the Middle East’s most powerful, consequential, and controversial leaders.”
In addition to the firsthand observations and discussions on politics, freedom of religion, and a new period of change within Arab countries, Joel openly maintained his fidelity to the Bible and his faith. An evangelical Christian with a Jewish heritage, Joel made Aliyah to Israel in 2014 with his wife and four sons. Now a dual American-Israeli citizen based in Jerusalem, Joel has even more depth and perspective.
About the in-person meetings themselves, Joel reflected, “Not many of us could have foreseen Arab leaders would even invite us. That would have seemed like a totally crazy idea just five years ago. We were the first delegation in the history of the United Arab Emirates ever as evangelical Christians to be invited to come and meet with the leadership.’’
It is clear that God gave favor in this and subsequent meetings. The Christian leaders who witnessed this historic moment kept their promise to Mohammed bin Zayed about the future peace. It would become the first with a Muslim nation since 1994 between Jordan and Israel. When bin Zayed’s decision was not made public, it became a cornerstone of trust for the future between Christian and Arab leaders. Mohammed bin Zayed made the announcement himself in August 2020 during a call with President Trump and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Enemies and Allies was already on the printing presses when the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan grew into a military, civilian, and diplomatic crisis. During the interview, I asked Joel what he would write in a chapter about this calamity.
He responded, “In Enemies and Allies I emphasize that if you don’t understand the nature and threat of the evil posed by radical Islamism, you can be blindsided by it. Biden’s surrender to the Taliban movement is one of the great catastrophes in American foreign policy. It is clear that he was blindsided.”
Joel went on to say that with one move, President Biden pulled out the “Jenga stick” and the whole game collapsed. It was a great analogy. Jenga is a game that involves building a tower out of wooden blocks, where players take turns removing a block from the tower and stacking it on top, making the structure increasingly unstable. If the tower falls apart on your turn, you will lose the game. “By doing this, Biden has emboldened our enemies and rattled our allies,” Joel asserted.
Regarding more Arab nations joining the Abraham Accords, I asked for Joel’s observations about Saudi Arabia possibly joining in. While he cannot divulge private conversations, Joel mentioned that he’s had in-depth, off-the-record discussions with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and his inner circle. “It may be a whole process that could take years, but that’s something that we should be praying for.” If the Saudis join, Joel says it would be “the mother of all peace deals.”
Two Bible verses are wise reminders for all believers in forming relationships with others of no faith or another faith. Psalm 37:3 exhorts: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Joel has grown into a behind-the scenes-goodwill ambassador, an informal bridge between Christians, Israelis, and Arab leaders. The breadth and depth of his newest book reveals the way that God has used his talents during world-changing events—not only to write a compelling, fact-based history book but also to wisely navigate relationships. It is refreshing that someone so prominent in the seismic shifts of Middle East history could remain a role model for humility, prayerful approaches, and authenticity. To better understand the rapidly shifting landscape in Israel and the Arab/Muslim world, read Joel’s book, ramp up your knowledge of Middle East history, and pray for the region.
Please join with CBN Israel in prayer this week for Israel and the Middle East:
- Pray that we evangelicals will follow the Lord’s lead as His ambassadors, walking in our faith prayerfully and in wisdom with an engaging approach.
- Pray for Arab leaders taking risks to align with Israel, resulting in benefits to their own people and standing/serving as a bulwark against their common enemy: Iran.
- Pray for deepened cooperative relationships with Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region and beyond.
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.