A Great and Terrible Wilderness

Moises Saman / Magnum

A Bedouin stands next to a military tank at a checkpoint in al-Arish, in North Sinai.

Correction appended: Nov. 8, 2013

The Greek orthodox monastery of St. Catherine on the slopes of Mount Sinai — where tradition says God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses — ought to be the last place on earth targeted by Muslim militants. The monastery's museum displays a copy of a 7th century letter dictated by the Prophet Muhammad, specifically ordering that the compound be protected by armies carrying the flag of Islam into Egypt. "Instead of conflict, we are an example that these things that make for conflict can be transcended," says Father Justin,...

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