Full Episode 029: Enemies & Allies, Part 3 - Opportunities In The Middle East | Inside The Epicenter
Joel C. Rosenberg comments on the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Joel C. Rosenberg comments on the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and how it changed how we approach one of the most critical questions regarding the Epicenter: Who are our enemies? And how should we treat our allies?
On this episode of the podcast, Joel continues the conversation about opportunities in the region and discusses two more countries in particular: the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
- [Narrator] Coming up on this episode of "Inside the Epicenter."
- [Joel] I would argue that he's become the most fascinating and most dynamic of the leaders in the Arab world. And he's building the UAE into an economic powerhouse, but also a tourist destination, a business destination.
- [Carl] What if our enemies became our allies? What if countries around the Middle East that had historically been enemies of Israel suddenly became political and social and business allies? Well, we're gonna ask that question today from someone who really knows. Hi, welcome to "Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg." a podcast of The Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Moeller, executive director of The Joshua Fund, and we're gonna address those questions and more to our founder and my boss on this podcast, Joel Rosenberg, Joel, it's great to be with you. You're in Jerusalem again, and I'm here in Southern California, but God has linked us across the miles. Joel, we've been talking in recent podcasts about your new book, "Enemies and Allies," and we've explored some really interesting things. Maybe you could just talk a little bit about how the book tour has been going and how the conversations around "Enemies and Allies" has been taking place.
- [Joel] Sure. Carl, great to be with you, and shalom, and from Jerusalem. It was an exciting fall. I was actually in the States for three months, only one month of that was a formal book tour. That was the month of September, but I also began the summer by speaking at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Dallas. I was the keynote at the honoring Israel breakfast with Pat Boone and other wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who deeply love Israel and are trying to get a sense of where are we now with Israel. We had just been through, of course, the Rocket War, 4,500 rockets in May, and then in June, we were at NRB. I also interviewed a former Secretary of State, former CIA director, Mike Pompeo in the main general session. So that was kind of how we got kicked off in the summer. Also had a wedding of our son, Jonah, who had just finished earlier in the spring, his time in the Israeli Defense Forces in a Special Forces unit. And he got married and we're very, very happy about our new daughter-in-law. She is absolutely lovely. And so anyway, it was a very full summer doing a lot of speaking. I got COVID, didn't know I could get COVID since I'd already been vaccinated here in Israel, but anyway, it was a full summer. And then the book tour, and yeah, I think what made the "Enemies and Allies" book tour particularly interesting was that with the decision by President Biden to withdraw all US forces out of Afghanistan, by the end of August, right on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 or thereabouts and the collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban, it really suddenly put this question right on the front burner, who are our enemies and how do we handle them? Well, what's the right way from a policy side to handle enemies? It's interesting. It's very different, right, From how followers of Jesus Christ are supposed to handle an enemy. We're supposed to love an enemy, but a nation-state is supposed to protect itself against the enemy and try to diffuse the threat from that enemy. So that was a big conversation. And then how do you treat your allies? If the Afghan government was our ally and the Afghan Army was keeping the radical Islamic terrorists at bay, why exactly did we cut their legs out from under them? And so that really was a very interesting, I mean, tragic, I wouldn't have wanted it that way, but it sort of set the table for a conversation that Americans had not been having, honestly, for the last several years. Because we, at least in the United States, the issue of COVID the issue of vaccines, so controversial, the issue of a bitter partisan political environment and campaigns and closed churches and all the race riots. I mean, those were the issues that were dominating. And so why would you talk about Israel? Why would you talk about the Muslim world? Why would you talk about the Iran threat or Afghanistan or anything else? But I guess I owe a thank you note to President Biden because in a sense, because he certainly set that table, and yeah, it was crisscross the country. I did hundreds of interviews and spoke at events and churches all over. It was exciting, and I was happy to see the book become a national bestseller.
- [Carl] Yeah, indeed. It was very exciting to be with you on a lot of those experiences and to listen to some of those conversations firsthand with Mike Pompeo and others. And to see the reception for this book has just been remarkable. The last time we spoke about the book, Joel, we were talking about some of the opportunities that exist there, particularly in the countries of Jordan and Egypt, and for our listeners, again, just to remind them, these countries historically have sent armies against Israel. They have created, incredible amounts of tension in the region historically. But there's some tremendous opportunities that have been growing over the last several years. And we saw that both Egypt and Jordan through other means came to peace treaties with Israel, but something developed. And you talk about greatly in your book, in some of the other countries in the region, but maybe you could just give a quick recap of some of the opportunities that we've talked about in Jordan and Egypt before.
- [Joel] Sure. Well, one of the most interesting moments in my life in recent years was being invited to meet with President Al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, and not only with him and his inner circle of top advisors and cabinet officials and Muslim senior clerics and so forth, but he sort of insisted that I take the evangelical leaders that had come with me and go have tea with Mrs. Sadat. Okay, Jihan Sadat was the widow of Anwar Sadat, and we had tea with her in her home, the very home where then-President Sadat ordered and designed the surprise sneak attack against Israel on Israel's highest holy day, on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, in 1973 in October. And that was horrifying for Israelis, and Israel almost lost that war. It was very, very scary, but that house that we were in was also the house where President Sadat planned another sneak surprise initiative. And that was his trip to Jerusalem in 1977. When he stunned the world by saying, "I would go to Jerusalem and I would make peace with the Israelis if they were open to it." And Israel said, "All right, why don't you show up? And let's see if you're really doing that." And so, to sit with Mrs. Sadat in that home, her showing us as evangelical leaders, and two of our sons, two sons who had served in the Israeli Defense Forces in combat units, to have her show us pictures and describe what it was like for her husband to shift from the worst enemy of Israel in the modern era, and Egypt of course, you can go back to Charlton Heston taking on Yule Brenner, right, in the 10 Commandments, right, at the Moses and the Pharaoh. I mean, this history of Egypt and Israel goes way back. But to be in that house, to hear from her. And I described that tea and that conversation in "Enemies and Allies." But that's the lightning-fast change in a sense, the tectonic change that led to the Camp David Accords in 1979 and the first-ever Arab-Israeli peace treaty, which meant it could be done. No one had ever seen it in human history. I mean, not going back to, I don't know, Hiram, of the king of Lebanon, making peace with Solomon because of his love for his father David, or you go back to the queen of Sheba, the Monarch of the Arabian peninsula coming to Israel, and, okay. But except for things like that, we had not seen Arab-Israeli peace ever. And the entire Arab world turned against Egypt for doing it, for making peace with Israel. And it took a few more years, actually, almost 20, for the next Arab country to make peace with Israel. And that was the king of Jordan, then King Hussein. And of course, as I describe in the book, as you and I have discussed, I have had the opportunity to get to know the king's son, now King Abdullah II, who is a man of peace. And so those were big because as you say, those were real battles. That was war, that wasn't just economic boycotts or political resistance to Israel. That was full-on multiple wars that cost a lot of Israeli lives.
- [Carl] Huge tectonic shift when those things happened, but we're gonna take a quick break right now, Joel. But when we come back, there was another tectonic shift that you write a lot about that just happened, literally within months of when we're talking right now, it's the Abraham Accords and the countries that were involved with that. So we want to get back and talk more about what those opportunities look like for our new allies in the area.
- [Joel] Hi, this Joel Rosenberg, there is nothing more powerful than prayer. We serve a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God. So if you would take a moment right now and pray for our many partners across the epicenter. Many of them regularly face persecution, harassment, and many, many difficulties, and your prayer could make a tremendous difference in the war against evils that face them. We know how the story ends. Let's pray to that end together.
- [Carl] So, Joel, I want to pivot for a moment because those two, Jordan and Egypt their peace treaties with Israel sort of became part of the landscape over several decades. They became sort of, okay, well they have a peace treaty, but all of the other nations in the region are still hostile to Israel. And we've talked about the threats from Iran and we've talked about some of the radicalism that's still very present in this. But something happened with the UAE and Bahrain. First of all, the UAE, I'm not sure many Americans understand the structure and what the UAE is. They're like, "What, it's a city, it's a city-state. What is it?"
- [Joel] So, well, the United Arab Emirates is a country less than 50 years old. I mean, actually exactly 50 years old, sorry, this year, 2021. So, I was born in 1971. It had been a British protectorate or colony prior to that, the United Arab Emirates is a country composed of seven different sectors or Emirates. This is the United Arab Emirates and emir, E-M-I-R, and emir in Arabic is like a king or a governor, a ruler. And so there were seven different rulers of these different sectors of this small country, but incredibly wealthy country because it sits on enormous amounts of oil, some natural gas, and it has turned itself over time into a financial services sector, a tourism destination, a shipping magnet, et cetera, et cetera. But in its dusty remote fishing village 1960s, nobody saw the set of Emirates as significant at all. The founder of the country though was a fascinating Muslim man named Sheikh Zayed. Sheikh Zayed. And what's interesting is that he had a vision for pulling these six other leaders into one country, gaining their liberation from the British, but maintaining good relationships with the British, and building the most dynamic and exciting, and I would say progressive, but I don't mean in the American political sense, an Arab country that's making progress. And his son Mohammad Bin Zayed has really taken over since his father's death, to take the UAE, United Arab Emirates, to a different level. And it was his decision. He's widely and fondly known in the region by his initials, MBZ, and MBZ has taken the UAE to a dramatic new level. I mean, literally just, just taking off a few things, invited the first evangelical delegation in the history of the UAE to meet and visit the country. That's the trip I led. A few months later, he invited Pope Francis to be the first Roman Catholic Pope to ever come to the Arabian peninsula, much less the UAE. He declared that year then the year of tolerance. We're Muslims, but we're moderates. We are tolerant. We like Christians. We like Jewish people. We want to build friendships. Then he sent the first rocket to the... I think to the moon or at least a landing. And now they've got a rocket that's going to Mars. And then they decided to make peace with Israel. Something that MBZ told me personally that he was gonna do two years before he did it. We were shocked. And that story is in the book.
- [Carl] Wait. I was gonna say, Joel, I knew you met with him, but you got some of the insights early on. Tell me about your meeting with MBZ and, and just, what kind of a person is he?
- [Joel] Well, he is a fascinating leader because he doesn't like to talk in public. He doesn't give speeches. He almost never gives an interview. He is a behind-the-scenes strategist, and he's tall. I mean, very tall, thin, lanky, nice, thin beard. He wears white robes and the white headdress with the black cords around it, that are very classic to the Gulf generally, and certainly to the UAE in particular, wears sandals in meetings, like, the guy is straight out of central casting for an Arab Gulf leader. Now he doesn't like to be public. What he likes to do is build things. By strategy. And I would argue that he's become the most fascinating and most dynamic of the leaders in the Arab world. And he's building the UAE into an economic powerhouse, but also a tourist destination, a business destination right now and for the next six months or so, the World Expo is there. It's being hosted there. This is like the modern equivalent of the World's Fair and it is fascinating. I'm heading to the UAE in a few weeks to go back, multiple trips I've taken. But the key is this guy is a visionary and he is trying to build a brand. He knows that too many people, not just in the West, but in the East, see the Arab Muslim world as hostile, as warmongers, as terrorists. Now, it's not really true of the people, right? But it is true of a lot of the countries and the leaders over the last hundred years, there's been a lot of Arab wars and a lot of terrorism, and a lot... So he's saying, "I want our country to be known as not that. We want to be the friends of the West, the friends of America. We want to be known as making progress in science and technology. And we want to be open to people of all faith." One of the reasons he's able to do it is not just because he believes that which is the most important, but he knows the values of the Emiratis very warm, welcoming, and hospitable. Why? Because only one in 10 of the people who live in the UAE are actually citizens. Only one in 10, 10%, 90% are foreigners who have come to work in the oil field, and work in the construction industry, and work in hotels and hospitality, and finance. So 90% of the country are people who aren't-
- Emirati. Therefore, most of them are not Arabs. Most of them are not Muslims. So by definition, they need to be open. They need to have these values of tolerance. So, people want to live there, right? Last point I would just say on that is before finding oil, the UAE was a fishing and trading port. So again, you have to welcome people who want to come and feel safe there, and that's what he did. But the key game-changing moment that I describe in the book is he decided that one of his goals was to be the next Arab country that made peace with Israel because he believes that Israel and the United Arab Emirates is very similar. High tech, high tourism, global in outlook, not inwardly focused. And he thought, Arab money and entrepreneurship with Israeli entrepreneurship and high technology, he thinks that's a match made in heaven. I think he's right. And so when he welcomed us into the palace for a two-hour off-the-record discussion, at the time, we wanted to know what his views were on making peace with Israel, but we didn't expect him to say, "I'm doing it. I'm gonna be the next guy, Joel." And then he was, he's the first country, the United Arab Emirates to enter the Abraham Accords. And it's his visionary decision, with President Trump helping, and of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu here in Israel that changed the dynamic and set into motion, other Arab countries to say, "You know what? Yeah, it is time." Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and then another Muslim country, Kosovo, who all followed in succession from MBZ's leadership.
- [Carl] That is incredible. I mean, one of the most fascinating things, as you read the book and as you get into, this is the almost domino-like way that some of these things took place and are continuing to take place. Let's not step away too far from the Abraham Accords. They're continuing to evolve within the context of different meetings. You mentioned you're going to the UAE and there are business delegations being put together that we're kind of a part of as well. I mean, this is the kind of exciting developments that when one looks back, wow, this is sort of like a front-row seat to history, to how things are going. Tell me when you met with MBZ, just give us one takeaway from that. One thing that you would say, man, that was probably a front-row seat to history.
- [Joel] Yeah, it's true. We got a front-row seat and a backstage pass. And for those who either read "Enemies and Allies," or who get it on audio and just download it to your phone and listen to it on the way to work or to school or going shopping or whatever. That's a great way, I love audiobooks.
- [Carl] Listen to a podcast about it.
- [Joel] Yeah, listening to this, of course, but getting through books you would want to read, but you may not have time in your normal life. I get through a lot of books on audio that I wouldn't otherwise. But I tell this story, and I want to give you the takeaway. I mean, you would think that him telling us that he was gonna make peace with Israel, dayenu. In Hebrew, we say, this alone would be enough. And I hope over time, our podcast listeners and viewers start to learn that term. 'Cause I'm gonna use it a lot. I already have, I think. But dayenu, this alone would be enough. But here's another story. And this is the reason I'm gonna the UAE for a celebration of the 60th anniversary of a hospital. Now, I'm not in the medical field. I'm one of the few Jewish people that didn't become a doctor, okay. But so, you're like, why are you going to the UAE?
- [Carl] "My son Joel, the doctor!"
- [Joel] Exactly. Paging Dr. Rosenberg, paging Dr. Rosenberg. We really don't need you in the ER, because you don't know what you're doing. Okay. So why do I feel like that's gonna be the teaser to the next podcast, but whatever.
- [Carl] I think so.
- So why am I going to the 60th anniversary of a hospital? Here's why. Because when we're sitting with MBZ, we want to get to know him. He's reclusive. He's a bit shadowy, not in a dark negative sense, but we nobody knows him. And he's such a fascinating leader. So we said, we were asking him lots of questions, how to get to know him. And he says, "Let me tell you a story. When my father was the emir of this area, Sheikh Zayed, Some American medical missionaries came to the UAE. This was prior to our independence, but they came and they said, 'Look, we're noticing that the people in your country, the healthcare system is not that good. And you got a high infant mortality rate and other issues that are fairly simple, easy to solve, but you need more people to help. Could we open a clinic here?' And Sheikh Zayed said... They said, 'Would you give us permission to rent or buy some property and open up a clinic?' And Sheikh Zayed said, 'Well, my wife keeps having a series of miscarriages, and we don't have any children, but if you would stay and help her bring this next baby to term, she's pregnant now, if you will help bring this baby to term in a healthy way, I'll give you my house.' So they said, 'Well, of course we'll help in any way we can.' And sure enough, the baby was born, very healthy. It was baby boy, father and mother are super happy." That son is Mohammed Bin Zayed. That's the son who emerged as the leader, the crown prince of the country. And that's the man we were sitting with and he was telling us this story, why he had such an affection for evangelical Christians generally, American evangelicals in particular. And yet he had actually never invited a delegation of evangelical leaders to come to the UAE. I was bringing the first at their request, at his request. And that was an amazing story. And so on a subsequent trip to the UAE, I actually had dinner with the current president of that hospital. And he did give the house, by the way, it wasn't his main house. It was another house, but okay, whatever, right? Dayenu. And I need to learn the Arabic word for dayenu, but we'll get to that. But long story short, that has grown into the leading hospital in the country, specializing in neonatal care and maternal care, but not just that. And I had dinner with the president of the hospital and the one of the board members and they said, "Hey," this was in December of 2020. And they said, "Listen, in November of 2021, that'll be our 60th anniversary. Would you come back and be with us for the celebration?" And the family's name was Kennedy. So it's the... They call it in Arabic, the Kanad Hospital, but it's based on the name Kennedy. No relationship to the political Kennedys, but just a super story. You rarely hear the term missionary coming out of our Muslim leader's mouth in a positive way. So, one of the things you, and I, and our colleagues want to explore is, what is God doing? Not just in Israel and the immediate neighbors, but in this country that has made peace with Israel. The first time since Jordan, the first time in a quarter of a century after millions of Christians have prayed for the peace of Jerusalem. And again, most Christians probably can't find the UAE immediately without a little bit of searching. Who are these people? Who are their leaders? Why do they like Christians so much? We're gonna go spend some time there. And now let's do a podcast either from there or after that, as we explore a little bit more of what's going on.
- [Carl] For sure. Having you there will be amazing. And that is remarkable. What a thread. I think we're gonna talk a little bit later in this podcast and maybe an in subsequent ones about the thread of God's Providence through these Accords. Let's be very clear, in this context, the very prince who was able to affect all of these changes, all of these reforms, and all of this peace initiative with Israel was actually born in a Christian missionary hospital. And that sympathy, that empathy for Christian work in the region and for God's work, perhaps, God is always using Kings and princes who don't acknowledge him, but God uses them to bring peace and to bring, we see that throughout scripture. So, Joel, I want to talk about another country.
- [Joel] Let me just say one thing, just to be clear, Crown Prince MBZ is a devout follower of God. He's a Muslim. So he doesn't see God the way we see from a Biblical Old Testament, New Testament perspective. I don't want to leave the impression that he doesn't believe in God, or God's Providence, or miracles, but it's true that we, he and I come from very different theological perspectives. So I just want to just want to be... Because of my friendship with him and his team, I want to be clear. He's definitely a believer in God, but not a believer that Jesus is God. And that's an important difference. That's an important to acknowledge these differences. I mean, that's a key element here too. Can we build friendships with people who we disagree with theologically, politically? And I think we need to. That doesn't mean it's not important to talk about our belief, deep life-changing, game-changing beliefs that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose again, and is coming back, and is God, and is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. That's the central message of the Gospel. And we do want everyone to hear it. And of course, we want everyone to believe it. Meanwhile, we need to build friendships and be able to have a conversation with people who don't agree with us because as Paul said, how're they gonna believe if they haven't even heard, and how can they hear, unless somebody tells them? And at some point, you have to be able to sit down and talk to them, and so, yeah, that's important.
- [Carl] Yeah, we certainly agree on that. And I would say every participant in the Abraham Accords in their own way felt like they were doing God's work. And I believe that there's a very profound sincerity to those beliefs that needs to be incorporated more into our conversations with people whose beliefs differ from ours. The sincerity, the approach. And I just love the way, your heart. I know you're not a diplomat, but you are very diplomatic in the way in which you address and engage with those that come from very different perspectives, I don't think you would have ever been invited back or you'd ever been continuing to have a relationship with some of these world leaders if you hadn't understood that dynamic that in that company.
- It's always possible to sell out the Gospel in order to go have a meeting, but I don't wanna do that, but I look to the example throughout the Bible, but particularly the apostle Paul. Now, admittedly, he was in chains when he was talking to governors, and to Kings, you go through the Book of Acts as just an example, even before he gets to Caesar Nero, which we don't get to see, that would have been a wonderful chapter, talking about tension and high stakes. But even when he's in prison in Caesarea and he is explaining very carefully and openly what he believes about Christ, how crisis changed him, he's sharing his testimony, he's sharing the Gospel, but he is doing it in a very diplomatic and friendly way. And at one point, the king even says, "What, are you trying to convert me?" He goes, "I want you to be exactly as I am, except of course, without the chains." But he does it in a very winsome way. And I just think there are lessons. Now, admittedly, not all of us are gonna have these opportunities where God opened the doors for actual kings and crown princes, presidents, and prime ministers. But I hope that those who read "Enemies and Allies" or just listen to the podcast realize, look, God will open up lots of different types of doors for different types of relationships in your life. Like, yes, it's hard enough to share the Gospel and have it build a winsome, loving, Christ-centered relationship with your parents if they don't believe, or with your kids, if they don't believe, or your neighbors, but what about your boss? What about the mayor of the city? What about the head of the school board or the city council who might be hostile, right? How do we live in a way that we can advance our values in a practical way, but also be a witness for Jesus, for the Gospel, with those who may disagree with us and some may vehemently disagree with it? That's something we all need to know how to do better than we probably do now.
- [Carl] That is one of the greatest practical applications of "Enemies and Allies" as a book. I really do believe it helps us deal with the fact that we are all confronted at times with those that have been our enemies and that we would love to see become allies or build bridges of love and trust again with those. And whether it's a family or work situation, a ministry situation, or things where things have been broken, maybe for years, "Enemies and Allies" as a book gives us a pattern of how to approach and how to engage on some of those things. And I'm so glad you brought that part of the book up because it sometimes people look at these books about, these non-fiction books of history, or facts of current political, and they go, what, "What would that have to say to me?" But there are many, many people listening right now whose lives are impacted by fractured, broken relationships that need to understand how to bridge those things and the pattern that you set up in the "Enemies and Allies" book, what God has done to bring peace there is amazing.
- [Joel] And I think the other principle is the principle of asking God to open doors to relationships and to opportunities to be his witness in sort of crazy places, if we're willing. And I believe that we serve a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God, a God who loves to open doors if we'll ask. Now, sometimes he opens us and he sort of pushes us through, 'cause he just has a sovereign will, and then we may not be listening, but he'll do it anyway. But Paul asks the followers of Christ, pray for him for open doors. And I think it's a wonderful principle. And I want to ask our listeners and viewers, keep praying for open doors. Not because we want to go visit palaces and be in motorcades. I'm talking about doors of every kind. The key is obedience. If a door opens to a neighbor, to a parent, to an enemy, to an ally, to whomever, are we gonna go through it? But I think we should be aiming a little higher and not just be praying... I do like to pray for parking spots by the way, or whatever. So, I do believe in praying for things that seem small, but I also think often we pray our prayers are, "Oh Lord, please bless me. Oh Lord, please bless my children. Oh Lord, have mercy on me and give me strength." Those are fine. But they're not really what I call audacious prayers where we aim a little higher "Lord, could I be a witness to the head of the school board? Could I be a witness to my whole class in school, in college, in elementary school, high school? Could I be a witness to my whole army unit?" Whatever. I mean, things that you think, oh God, I don't know if I'd even want that door to open. It's good to start praying and asking, "God, would you use me for whatever little time I have on this Earth?"
- [Carl] Joel, that is so powerful. And I know both of us were talking to a friend a few weeks ago, who said they had heard you say that you wanted to do this with these delegations. And they said, "He's absolutely crazy. They'll never happen."
- That was a board member!
- It was a board member!
- [Joel] Of The Joshua Fund! He loves me, I love him, but he's like, "Oh, that guy's a nut. I mean, come on, that's never gonna happen."
- [Carl] Just whistling in the wind with that one. Well, look, there's so much to talk about here. There's just really incredible richness. And of course, we're gonna come back and talk about another whole aspect of the "Enemies and Allies" book, about what we do and how we can take it from here. But I want to talk about one more country in the book. And it's a country that did not join the Abraham Accords, Saudi Arabia. Many things are happening there, but tell us what you see in opportunities with Saudi Arabia. It's such an enigma to most Americans.
- Yeah, well, again, I think that's gonna be a podcast unto itself, but I will say there are major sweeping changes going on in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the home of the two most sacred sites to the Muslim people, Mecca and Medina. And for most of the last several hundred years that the Saudi family has controlled the Arabian peninsula, it's been about 300 years, they have considered themselves a forbidden kingdom, only accessible to Muslims. You can come on a trip to Saudi Arabia, but you're coming as a Muslim to visit Mecca and Medina, right. Or, or as an oil executive. Okay, fair enough. But mostly, the Saudi Royal family has not seen themselves as opening up their arms and saying, "Come and see, come and visit, come and be part of it." Like the UAE has, like Bahrain has, like some of the other Gulf states who don't have Mecca and Medina at their core. So they have different religious sensibilities or they're devout Muslims, but they see themselves differently. And, the smaller Gulf states, specifically as we described with the UAE, if 90% of your population is a foreigner, you have to be open. Well, why would they come? Why would they say stay? Why would they work there? Why would they pay taxes, et cetera? So, yeah, that's a thing, but the Saudis are not seeing themselves that way, but they are changing. They're changing. Their young crown prince Mohammad Bin Salmaan, widely known by his initials, MBS, has a vision. He calls it vision 2030, to completely transform the kingdom of Saudi Arabia into what I would say, he wouldn't say it this way, but is much closer to the UAE or Bahrain or some of the other countries where, why don't we have entertainment in our country? Saudi Arabia didn't have movies. You couldn't go to a movie theater for the last 40 years. And now AMC movie theaters are opening up everywhere. They're having concerts. There was no concerts in Saudi Arabia since 1979. Why? Because in 1979, two dramatic events happened in the Middle East. One, the Iranian revolution happened and the moderate pro-Western, pro-American, pro-Israel leader of Iran, the shah of Iran, Shah Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown and kicked out of the country for a radical Islamist known as Ruhollah Khomeini. And then the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December of '79. And that radicalized Afghanis and other Arabs throughout the region to come against the godless communist Soviets. And then one more event happened right around that time, which is a group of radical Muslims, including a leader who said he was the Islamic Messiah or Savior known as the Mahdi, they took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca. They literally took a hostage and it was a huge embarrassment and a catastrophe. And the Saudi leadership decided because of those confluence of events that it had to become radical too. And it had to get rid of music and movies and make women wear all this completely covering garb, and have hostility towards Christians and Jews and whatever. And it has marked Saudi Arabia for the next 40 some years. And this new crown prince has said, "No, enough of that. I don't want to live in that country. I don't want to be part of that country. I don't want to be known as that type of country. We're changing." And the young people are with him. 70% of Saudi Arabia, their residents and their citizens are under the age of 35. So they're excited about the idea of concerts and movies and soccer games and women driving. Because they've seen television, they've been on the internet. They know what the rest of the world looks like, and they don't want to be in a sort of a Taliban-esque country, an Iranian regime oppressive country. Now, just to finish that riff, MBS is a very controversial figure. The big question of course is, will he make peace with Israel? But there's other questions too. All of which I deal with in the book, because I'm one of the few people that have ever gotten to meet him. There are literally biographies that have been written in which the authors have never met him, much less interviewed him, much less interviewed him on the record. A New York Times reporter wrote an entire biography on MBS, never met him. Two Wall Street Journal reporters wrote an entire biography on MBS. Never met him. CIA senior analyst, dealing with Arabian issues, wrote a book about the US-Saudi relationship, including on MBS, never had met him. So, "Enemies and Allies" is the only book, not just the first, but it's the only book where the author has met MBS and spent hours and hours on the record, talking about the most sensitive issues, of human rights, of relationship with Iran, of why do you have so many crazies in your mosques preaching bad things? What about all the terrible things that are taught in Saudi textbooks? When and how are you gonna change that? Why are there no churches in Saudi Arabia? I mean, that's why I say this is a whole podcast unto itself, but it is my colleagues, my evangelical colleagues and I, we went through everything. I mean, not everything. I mean, all the major issues that people would wanna ask him about, that those reporters, if they'd had their chance would have asked them about, including the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, and other human rights controversies. And so, yeah, that's gonna be interesting to unpack, but it's a country I'm fascinated with, and never in my entire life until the last few years when I started to pray for an open door, did I ever expect to touch my feet on Saudi sand, much less be invited into the palace, much less the guest of the heir to the throne, much less get to talk to him about Jesus.
- [Carl] All of that is beyond dayenu. Beyond dayenu, right? That is incredible. And it's such a compelling and powerful story. I know our listeners are gonna want to read about that because there's so much to unpack. As you said, we have much more to cover on this and we have much more to cover the whole issue of the Abraham Accords. On our next podcast, we're really gonna dive into what are the Abraham Accords, where did they actually originate, and what are the implications as we go forward again? Part of the great hope of reading "Enemies and Allies" for me was setting up where this is going to go and what God could be up to through this amazing tectonic shift in the history of the Middle East. So, Joel, thank you so much.
- [Joel] It's a good time to be going inside the epicenter.
- [Carl] It is! It is a great time to be going inside the epicenter. And I want to thank you for this episode. And to our listeners, I am so grateful that you've joined us on this podcast. if you want to learn more about how God is moving in the epicenter, through The Joshua Fund, head over to Joshuafund.com and sign up for our e-newsletter. Through your emails, you'll hear encouraging stories of life change. It's gonna bless you, trust me. God is moving in the epicenter in powerful, powerful ways. And if you've found this podcast valuable, please, get in touch with us, let us know who you are. What do you want us to talk about on the show? We've spent some weeks here talking about this book, but there are many, many things God is doing in the Middle East. And we'd love to share those stories as well. And let us know what you want to hear about. If you have a question you want Joel to answer, go to Joshuafund.com and click on contact us. Feedback from you is incredibly valuable as we look to develop and enhance this podcast. And as always, check out our show notes for anything you heard on the podcast that you'd like more information on. And for Joel Rosenberg, I'm Carl Moeller. Thanks for listening to "Inside the Epicenter."