Joel C. Rosenberg has described himself as “a failed political consultant.” Early on, he spent 10 years in Washington, D.C., working for a range of U.S. and Israeli leaders.
Ultimately, that career didn’t take off as he’d hoped, but it proved a perfect backdrop for his next venture: writing international thriller novels mainly focused on the Middle East and often involving biblical prophecies.
Born near Rochester, N.Y., to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, both of whom became Christians, Rosenberg now holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship and lives in Jerusalem with his wife and their sons. He’s a practicing Christian.
All told, his 16 novels and several non-fiction books have sold nearly 5 million copies. Several of his books have spent weeks on the major bestseller lists.
He told a British Christian podcast he was nine months into writing his first novel, “The Last Jihad”—in which Islamist terrorists hijack a jet to crash it on a suicide mission and Iraq is eventually invaded—when the jets hit the Twin Towers on 9/11.
The popularity and credibility of his books, along with much audacious prayer, he insists, have helped open doors for him to heavy-hitters ranging from former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Jordan’s King Abdullah II to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Rosenberg, 54, has compiled insights from visits with these and other players into a new non-fiction book, “Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East.”
He’s in Kentucky this weekend to promote it. He’ll speak three times on Sunday, Sept. 19, at Church of the Savior, 1301 Brannon Rd., Nicholasville—in the regular 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services, and in a special service at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. The 11 a.m. service will be streamed online at https://churchofthesavior.net/livestream.
In a phone interview from Washington, D.C., Rosenberg said significant developments in the Middle East have occurred almost unnoticed here, given our country’s preoccupation with the pandemic, partisan politics and other hot-button issues.
“The last 20 years have been a horror show for Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Middle East,” he said. “But there are some very encouraging signs of hope.”
Militant Islamist groups such as ISIS have killed enormous numbers of their fellow Muslims, he said, and created untold suffering across the region.
Ironically, this upheaval has contributed to unprecedented cooperation between more moderate Muslims and members of the other two faiths.
For instance, President Sisi of Egypt recently built the largest church in the Middle East and presented it to Christians on Christmas Eve. (Seventeen million Christians live in Egypt, Rosenberg said.)
And in 2020, four Arab countries—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco—signed peace treaties with Israel.
The havoc wreaked by groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban isn’t the only reason for the remarkable interfaith cooperation in the Middle East. Those who live in the region fear something even more dangerous.
“The Iran threat is the number one reason attitudes are changing,” Rosenberg said.
In his explanation, Iran is led by radical mullahs who advocate an extremist theology he called “apocalyptic Islamism.” They don’t just propose violence toward their enemies, he said, but hope to bring about the End of Days, a full-on apocalypse.
He believes that’s why Iran wants nuclear weapons: to launch a cataclysmic, history-ending war.
“This is not normal,” Rosenberg said.
Iran’s neighbors know that threat is real, he said. America’s current government apparently doesn’t.
“President Biden just doesn’t see it,” Rosenberg said. “To misunderstand the motive and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.”
It should be said that Rosenberg has a politically conservative worldview. Significantly more conservative than my own, at least.
Early on, he worked as a research assistant for the late Rush Limbaugh and was an adviser to Republican political candidate Steve Forbes. He’s been endorsed by former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
I asked him about this, and he said he doesn’t see himself as a one-party man:
“I don’t really care about the label.”
He said he’s more interested in how leaders stand on issues related to Israel and militant Islamism than their affiliation.
“I don’t hate President Biden,” he said. “On Israel, he’s pretty good. But he’s just wrong, and dangerously wrong” on Iran.
So take all this as you will. I’m not in the least an expert on the Middle East and not in a position to endorse or dispute Rosenberg’s views about Iran, Israel or Arab leaders.
This I can say: he’s an interesting guy, and you could do worse than to go hear him talk. He’ll make you think, and that in itself is good.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.