Volume IV, Issue 32
Kanoon I 14, 6748 December 14, 1998
|The Lighthouse||Truly Awful Things|
|Good Morning Bet-Nahrain||Nine Additional POW's Released
Baghdad's Efforts to Arabize the North
Sanctions Detrimental to Iraqis, Not Saddam
|News Digest||News from Tatarstan
Ishtar Assyrian Magazine of Montreal
Israelis Ban A Christmas Television Program
|Surfs Up||"I lost my religion in the Assyrian church."|
|Surfers Corner||Remembering the Assyrians in the Homeland at Christmas
The New Mar Addai Church of the East Project
Syrian Orthodox Community Attempts to Hang On
|Calendar of Events||Entertainment & Cultural Events|
|Assyrian Surfing Posts||Nakosha Magazine
|Pump up the Volume||Beginner & Intermediate|
|Back to the Future||Early Sumerian Period & the Assyrian Missions to Far East|
|Literatus||2000 Years Before Copernicus|
|This Week in History||British Allocation of the Mosul Province|
|Bravo||You Got Mail!|
All blue links throughout this issue are hyperlinks to other sections on this page or featured websites.
TRULY AWFUL THINGS
In my Assyrian research project I found a column written in the New York Times, April 24, 1985 called OBSERVER by Russell Baker, with the heading Truly Awful Things: Summer Football. It's my contention that there have never been so many Truly Awful Things as there are today. There is a professional football league which plays football all summer long, for example. That is a Truly Awful Thing.
I doubt that the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes or the Persians, who thrived in a thoroughly unattractive era and put up with some pretty awful stuff, would have tolerated summer football.
I imagine word reaching the Assyrian king that a cabal of capitalists is gathered at the Nineveh Plaza Hotel drawing up a plot. "A plot?" (This is the king talking, and you know how kings feel about plots).
"Yes, Majesty. The spies say these rogues hope to milk the viewing audience of more millions of piasters by starting a summer football league."
Do you think the king is going to sit still for that? Hah!
I hear him hissing, "Football right on through the baseball season? That is one Truly Awful Thing." (All right, you can't hiss that in English, but the king isn't speaking English, is he? He's speaking Assyrian.)
Next day at the Plaza the Assyrian comes down like a wolf on the fold, cohorts gleaming in purple and gold, and it's curtains for one group of capitalists so greedy they were ready to inflict a Truly Awful Thing on humanity.
Here is another Truly Awful Thing: Some very decent people, Americans of modern Assyrian heritage, are going to read this and send angry letters.
"Where do you get off abusing Assyrians as wolves, you bigot?: those letters will say.
The Truly Awful Thing at work here is the sense of obligation almost every modern American feels to be offended for the pleasure of taking offense.
Note that in choosing ancient Assyria to show how a more muscular
culture than ours would cope with a Truly Awful Thing like summer
football, I make no connection between that extinct nation and
We have all heard that modern Italians and Greeks are unrelated
to the ancients of Rome and Athens, who thrived long after Assyria
had vanished; surely nobody living today can feel kin to people
worshipped Ashur 3,000 years ago on land now part of Iraq?
And yet, some very decent American of modern Assyrian heritage will send a letter -- "sick and tired of seeing our people stereotyped as wolves because of that idiotic Lord Bighorn with his purple-and-gold-cohort verse."
Why so sure? Because I received such letters three years ago after writing about those antique Assyrians in "wolf-on-the-fold? terminology.
Knowing all this, why not forget Assyrians and cite Babylonians
or Medes as tough cookies who would have known how to stamp out
a summer-football pestilence? Because it would make no difference.
Choose Medes and there will be angry mail from Americans who remember
family tales of their
Mede Blood. (I'm sick and tired of these Mede stereotypes...").
Babylonians? It's hard to believe, but there are people out there
somewhere whose sensitivities are bruised every time Babylonians
are criticized. It is a certainty, because the land is swarming
willing to spend their lives being offended, whether the offender is offensive or not.
Suppose you wrote about the Babylonian king coming down like a wolf on the summer-football cabal. The mail would bristle with letters demanding to know why you chose to make this strong character a king rather than a queen, and then telling you why. That's right, you sexist swine.
Spending a life in quest of offense in order to enjoy a righteous outrage is a Truly Awful Thing which did not exist, except among hopeless neurotics, until the 1960's.
It was a byproduct of the black civil rights movement, which provided such a heroic spectacle of abused people fighting for their rights that before long very few Americans, including those already possessed of all rights guaranteed by the Constitution plus many other provided by wealth, could resist the pleasure of struggling heroically for their own rights.
Now, another Truly Awful Thing: Would you believe vile and disgusting
greed has infected the curators of baseball, with the result that
starting this year baseball will be played right up to almost
This year, almost November; next year - who knows - all the way into the basketball season.
This is a Truly Awful Thing, and I doubt that the ancient Chinese
would have tolerated it. Scrub "ancient Chinese," please, and
make it - oh, let's say aborigine princesses. Can't be many of
them itching to throw
their weight around.
GOOD MORNING BET-NAHRAIN
NINE ADDITIONAL POWs RELEASED
(ZNDA: Chicago) According to John Nimrod, Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, the Islamic Republic of Iran has released nine additional Assyrian-Chaldean Prisoners of War. Last month eleven Assyian POW's were released as a humanitarian gesture during the Christmas season. The POW's released last week were:
Several Assyrian religious groups and political parties, working in Iran, have been instrumental in the push for the release of these Christian hostages. The list includes the Chaldean Catholic Church in Tehran, the Assyrian Universal Alliance, the Bet-Nahrain Freedom Party (GBH) in Iran, the Central Committee of Tehran (Motva d'Tehran) and the Assyrian Church of the East - Tehran parish.
For more information contact the AUA Office in Chicago at (773) 274-9262.
(ZNDA: Northern Iraq) On 25 October, A.A. Taib, the governor of Duhok, in a letter to the United Nations explained that Baghdad is systematically arabization Kurdish, Assyrian and Turkoman territories and is involved in the deportation of non-Arabic inhabitants. Taib, a Kurdish leader, called this a violation of UN Security Council Resolution No. 688, which calls for an end to the persecution of minorities in Iraq. He wrote that some Baghdad officials dispossess non-Arab populations of their land and houses and then hand them over to newly-arrived Arab families. Iraqi officials, according to Taib, hope that the non-Arab Iraqis will then "correct" their nationality on special "National Correction Forms," dropping what the Iraqis argue is their past "mistaken identity". In this way, they will be able to "voluntarily" change their national registration and "willingly" join one of the Arab tribes. The Duhok government has asked Prakash Shah, the UN Secretary General Koffi Annan's special envoy, to intervene with the Iraqi government to reverse this policy.
Again Saddam Hussein stands accused of defying the world's will.
Again our sabers rattle. Again our bombs are poised to destroy
Iraq, the cradle of civilization, where grammarians codified the
rules of Arabic grammar, where medieval philosophers and theologians
contemplated Plato, Aristotle
and Plotinus 200 years before their European counterparts. But who knows this history now? Iraq is but Saddam's country; Saddam must be taught a lesson, so Iraq must be destroyed again.
Forgotten is that Saddam is not Iraq; Iraq is a nation of 22 million souls who have been devastated by unrelenting economic sanctions now in their ninth year. Two years ago, the United Nations estimated that some 1 million people--700,000 of them children under the age of 5--had died as a direct result of economic sanctions. But we do not have time to waste thinking about ordinary Iraqis; Saddam must be taught a lesson.
To buy food, Iraqis sell their organs to the ruling elite for
transplants. Iraq's children die by the thousands every month
because Iraq is not allowed to import the chemicals needed to
purify its drinking water
or treat its sewage. Caesarian sections are performed on Iraqi women without anesthetic. Not Saddam's family, of course. When an assassination attempt critically injured Saddam's son, a team of surgeons was flown in from France and Germany to treat him. That certainly taught Saddam a lesson.
Forgotten, too, is how perverse it is to use economic sanctions against Iraqis to affect Saddam and his Baathist cadre. There are only two rational premises for the imposition of economic sanctions. The first is that, once sanctions are imposed, no government interested in its citizens' well-being would intentionally continue the sanctioned behavior. In the 19 years he has been president, Saddam has enslaved Iraq's population and ruled with a ruthless brutality worthy of Stalin. In his war against Iran, he caused the deaths of 250,000 Iraqis, using poison gas against his own citizens. Two years later he launched his fiasco in Kuwait. Could anyone have imagined that Saddam would willingly sacrifice a single bacterium in his arsenal for the benefit of ordinary Iraqis?
The second rational premise is that a population living under
sanctions would rise, topple its government and replace it with
one that does not engage in unlawful conduct. In 1991 we induced
Iraqis to rebel against Saddam, then stood by self-contentedly
with 500,000 men in the battlefield while Saddam butchered the
rebels. Can one expect a population living at or below starvation
for more than eight years to have the strength to rebel
Only one premise for sanctions remains, however ghastly it is
to contemplate: We are deliberately targeting Iraq's civilian
population for destruction. Many in Iraq, and elsewhere in the
Middle East, are beginning to believe that this is true. No one
pretends that economic sanctions have had any impact on the lives
of Iraq's Baathist elite. While Saddam imports Italian marble
for his 45 palaces, ordinary Iraqis, who once enjoyed a high standard
of living, now must spend an entire month's wages to purchase
pounds of meat. Or choose between feeding their families or trying to pay a doctor's bill. For the first time in its 6,000-year history, Iraq knows hunger.
Thanks to sanctions, the best medical system in the developing
world has been destroyed. Modern medical facilities--and elementary
medications--are unavailable. Iraq's physicians are now years
behind in technical knowledge and the ability to treat patients.
Water-borne epidemics and infectious diseases such as cholera
and poliomyelitis were eradicated 25 years before the imposition
of sanctions. Since sanctions, these diseases have run rampant,
exacting a horrific toll from Iraq's children. Rates of cancer
psychological disorders have escalated astronomically. The emergence of these diseases, coupled with the regime's total failure to co-operate with the United Nations' Special Commission on Iraq is testimony to the utter futility of economic sanctions.
UNSCOM charges that Saddam has been able to rebuild his outlawed weapons despite economic and military sanctions and inspections. If that is true, given the human toll, what possible justification can there be for continuing economic sanctions? Eight years ago, President Bush told us our quarrel was with "the dictator," not the people of Iraq. Eight years of sanctions aimed directly at Iraq's civilian population tell a different story.
What has been happening to Iraq's population falls within the definition of genocide under the Genocide Treaty recently signed by the U.S. We in the United States, along with Saddam and the Baathist regime, continue, then, to contribute to this genocide of the Iraqi people. Non-military economic sanctions must be lifted immediately, lest future generations accuse us of turning a deaf ear to this suffering of innocents, much as our government in the 1930s and 1940s turned a deaf ear to the plight of Europe's Jews.
Feisal Amin Istrabadi
NEWS FROM TATARSTAN
(ZNDA: Kazan) In August and September His Holiness Alexi II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, visited the Kazan Diocese and the monasteries of Raifa and Svijazsk. The Patriarch was also met by the Assyrians of Kazan who had come to pay their respect. His Holiness blessed the Assyrians of Kazan and spoke with them in a friendly atmosphere.
The popular Assyrian Sunday School in Kazan, established in September, continues to offer the following programs:
The Assyrians of Kazan have established The Assyrian Social Organization in Tatarstan with the purpose of reviving and saving the heritage of the Assyrians in Tatarstan. This year, for the first time, they celebrated the Assyrian New Year, Kha b'Neesan.
In June, the BAHRA organization of the Assyrians of Kazan was registered as a member of the Association of National and Cultural Societies of Tatarstan Republic. The latter includes 20 more national communities that exist in the Republic.
(ZNDA: Detroit) A new quarterly Assyrian magazine entitled "Ishtar" will be available in early January 1999. Ishtar will be published in Arabic under the direction of Dr. Saadi al-Malih. The scope of this publication, produced in Montreal-Canada, will be the Mesopotamian civilization, the history of the five Eastern Churches (Assyrian, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic,Chaldean, & Maronite) and the history, culture, and political aspirations of the Assyrians. The first issue is expected to include over 200 pages of articles, news, and documents. For more information contact Dr. al-Malih at:
1430 Begin, St. Laurent, Quebec
or call (514) 956-7555. Also see this week's ASSYRIAN SURFING
ISRAELIS BAN A CHRISTMAS TELEVISION PROGRAM
(ZNPR: Jerusalem) Palestinian Muslims and Christians reacted strongly to Israeli's decision to ban transmission of televised Christmas celebrations from the Church of Nativity and programs from al-Aqsa mosque if they include any Palestinian "references or signs." Such references may include mention of the name 'Palestine.' Director of al-Aqsa mosque, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, said the decision is blatant interference in Muslim affairs, while Ibrahim Qandalaft, in charge of Christian Affairs in the Palestinian Waqf Ministry, called the decision an attempt to "shut out the voice of God," noting that Palestinians cannot accept Israeli censorship.
Excerpt from the December 11th issue of the Palestine Report.
"Christmas! A time to rejoice, remember and say a prayer. At times like this, every year Christians around the world celebrate Christmas and the new year with joyful hearts, in the hope that next year will be better than the current one.
At times like this, Assyrians like all Christians celebrate Christmas where ever they reside. Those living in the western world enjoy the luxury and comfort of high living standards. In the middle east, the birth place of Jesus Christ where peace is unheard of and Iraq, where Assyrians along with all Iraqi people are facing hardships by the day would be praying for their safety and hope that tomorrow will be brighter than today.
At times like this, we should all stand a moment of silence and pay tribute to those who lost their lives seeking a brighter future.
At times like this, as we rejoice we should remember those Assyrians who are less privileged than ourselves, those who lost their loved ones, those who became victims of crimes they never committed, those who lost their homes and now are living in tents and caves and those who are still refugee camps awaiting a brighter future. Let us all pray for their safety and hope that the new year will fill their hearts with joy and fill their lives with prosperity."
Tactically, the trio may try in weakness waving the olive branch, but once strong, their guns are turned on our heads. A coalition of the left between an Assyrian group and similar non-Assyrian to combat a common foe does not serve our Assyrian National cause.
Look at the history. Pakistan was slashed from India 50 years ago, to become a safe haven for muslims fleeing Hindus wrath. Now the muslims are persecuting the Christians. In Bangladesh (formerly east section of Pakistan), once freed as a sovereign nation, all its people lived in peace. Now the muslims are persecuting the Christians.
The Kurds of northern of Iraq, fought the successive central Arabic regimes since 1961 in a move to halt the Arabic yoke of repression. Now the Kurds in their semi-state and in a couple of years are repressing the Assyrians politically, religiously, culturally and educationally. There are more examples but I think this should suffice.
Shall we fight the Turks to establish a homeland for the Kurds only to be persecuted later? Shall we gather in Tehran, once fled from it, and proclaim our great victory?
Dr. George Habash
To save our nation, to revive the Assyrian language and traditions of our people are the most important goals and duty of advanced Assyrian intelligentsia.
Assyrians in Tatarstan
The family of Assyrians in Tatarstan numbers nearly 200 people. Almost all of them live in the capital of Tatarstan - the city of Kazan.
By Gods will the Assyrians scattered all over the world share lives of those nations, among which not numerous assyrian communities live. This is how the life of the Assyrians of Tatarstan went, when the representatives of our nation had started to come here since 1918 because of all-known events, that had happened in our historic Motherland. The Assyrians of Tatarstan, as well as all Russian Assyrians, side by side with Russian, Tatar and other nations went through all historic events of Russia of Tzar (Kazan Province), of USSR (TASSR - Tatar Autonomous Soviet Social Republic) and of modern Russia (Sovereign Tatarstan).
There is practically no Assyrian family in Tatarstan that did not suffer during Stalins repressions. During the Second World War the Assyrians from Kazan fought against fascism. In the following years they conquered virgin soil and built BAM (The Main road of Baikal and Amur).
For all the time of living in Tatarstan they did not have any organizations, representations and even national schools and nevertheless the community way of life, thats how their ancestors lived, they carried this way of life through years, and keep it even now. In today circumstances it shown in constant communication and keeping the main traditions and celebration Assyrian holidays.
The condition of Assyrian culture among our nation in Kazan can be called catastrophic. It is necessary to revive Assyrian language and national culture. For this purpose we started publishing Independent Bulletin of the Assyrians of Tatarstan BAHRA since 1997, that comes out every season.
Basically the Assyrians of Kazan - representatives of community of Jilvai, one family represent the community of Diznai and another - Marbushnai.
From the first moment of our coming here we never lose contact with Assyrians of other cities of Russia - Moscow, Tver, Tula, Rostov-na-Donu, Smolensk and others. We hope that this contact will only get stronger.
In spite of the fact that most of the Assyrians of Tatarstan have higher education, they represent industrial and trade stratum of our society, that is now being filled by business men and commercial people of different levels.
Today there have been made all conditions for national revival and we hope that Assyrians can live among other people as a nation of full value that has its greatest culture and that knows and keeps it.
We place big hope on the contact between Zenda and Bahra. Our large experience will be a good lesson for us, and exchange of information will help to widen our outlook and will lead to mutual exchange of spiritual values."
Rustem A. Gainutdinov
For more information on Tatarstan click here.
This by itself disputes your article about where Aram came from. Also you mention that 'The term Aramaic is derived from Aram, the fifth son of SHEM, the firstborn of Noah. See Gen. 10:22. The descendants of Aram dwelt in the fertile valley, Padan-Aram also known as Beth Nahreen.'
Finally: We, the Assyrian people, always inset that there was
no Chaldo, and that Chaldo is not a nation, that Chaldo is a part
of the Assyrian nation, and in the Census of 2000 we want all
other groups including the Chaldeans, Maronites and so on be registered
as Assyrian. Most of our articles about this
subject is written that there is no Chaldo, because Chaldo is only a Religious name and that those people that are calling themselves Chaldean are nothing but Assyrian and that they are looking for problem and that they want to separate our Assyrian nation by naming themselves with Chaldean name. Having said all that, I notice that in your article you indicated 'Chaldean Empire (626-539 B.C.)'
So Chaldean Empire existed and that means the Chaldean People existed too. My question is, why are we pushing so hard to have the Chaldean People to be registered as Assyrian and not as Chaldean People. Again, I know the reason that it is only a political one and I can appreciate it very much. I am all for it, because I am a selfish Assyrian, love my nation no matter what, but the fact remains that there is injustice here if we are to learn and to live with each other and if we want to gain power and recognition and if we want to ask for our rights as a nation, then why are we not starting good and clean and in a democratic way of respecting each other's rights and recognizing each other as a nation rather than forcing the Chaldean People to admit that they are Assyrian and of the Assyrian nation and not of the Chaldean nation.
Yes, I can understand that we were from one Father and that the Assyrian and the Chaldean come from one bloodstream, but yet they are a nation by itself. If they were an Empire, then they were a Country and if they were a Country then there must be people that run that country, since there were people called Chaldians then they should be recognized and respected as such. We should learn how to respect other cultures and other people, then and only then we can solve our differences, by mutual respect and by understanding the need of each other. In doing so, we can unite under Chaldo/Atur and become a powerful Political force. We can ask for our rights as two people for one nation, that loves the same land of Bet-Nahrain and to reach one common goal. By insisting that there is no Chaldo and that Chaldean is not of a nation or of People other than 'that they are Assyrian,' we are doing much harm than good to our both nation. Let us awake from our deep sleep and let us come to a mutual respect and recognition to each other. May God bless both nation of Chaldo and Atur."
The Assyrian Youth Group
According to Mr. Romel Gewargis Eliah, the Assistant-Representative to Zowaa in North America, after the 1992 negotiations the Assyrians were permitted to obtain primary and secondary school education in the Assyrian language. Currently only Assyrian high school students in Dohuk (Assyrian Noohadra)'s Nisibin School can enjoy an "Assyrian curriculum". Of these 192 students 52 travel from Sarsink, Perzaveh, Komanah, Deralok, and Deana and are provided with housing and meals for the entire week. They visit their parents on weekends. The other 140 students live in Dohuk (Noohadra). Through the efforts of the members of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (Zowaa); Nisibin School Principal, Mr. Bahmoud Hanna Shimoun; and the Assyrian Mayor of Arbil, Mr. Franso Al-Hariri, this small but crucial step towards a greater acceptance of Assyrian secondary education in northern Iraq was made possible
With religions come priests and with priests comes power. Even in a religion with no priests, there is no illusion of a powerless god. The faithful say they love their god, but in reality, they fear it. Even pamphlets and posters try to use the threat of a vengeful god to scare people into conversion. I am sure that Jesus never threatened non-believers with damnation, but even Jesus is feared. Obedience out of fear is not true. People are not what they pretend to be when they have a gun to their head, and the threat of hell is larger than the threat of death.
Religions twist and adjust and wind up contradicting their original beliefs. Jesus was Jewish and according to the bible, he went to hell so that others could go to heaven, but many Christians who believe that only Christians can go to heaven believe that they would see Jesus there. The power structures of religions are so absolute that they are followed blindly. Wars and feuds are started over religion when god is supposedly loving and forgiving. Very often, god is believed to be fighting for both sides at once. After taking vows of poverty, many priests become filthy rich. The pope owns a city. The power structures of religions become corrupt almost as swiftly as that of the government. Religion is a tool of the state. If people believe in heaven, they won't try to change things, because they believe it will get better later. In the Spanish, Russian and Cuban revolutions, many priests or molahs helped the state by shooting at revolutionaries, remember Irans revolution ! Their quest for power overcame their belief in thou shalt not kill.
Religion's hold is too powerful, and no true radicals would force
someone to stop worshipping. That would be an infringement on
their freedom. I have heard that some priests believe in anarchy.
I feel sorry for them, they are so close, but they miss the point.
Morals are not holy, they are human.
When people develop naturally and freely, they develop morals. They need no religion to guide them. In fact, religion becomes a hindrance. The most devout have guilty consciences, but those who are raised free die with no regrets and no fear of damnation.
The guilty conscience is built by this fear. Confessions, commandments and restrictions all increase this fear. Religious people believe that they are born sinners, but anyone who has ever seen a baby should know otherwise. Sunday schools create the evil that is absent in a child. Forcing someone who wants to be outside playing to sit still in a formal suit is torture. It creates hate anger and fear that will come back later in life.
I am not saying that religion is completely bad. It has been the instigator of great good, like Christmas, and the resurrection of Easter Bonny. These instances are so few and far between that it doesn't seem to be worth it. More often than not, it is the terrible things that happen in the name of god. Abortion bombings, crusades, inquisitions and holocausts were all considered holy by the people who started them.
This does not mean that there are not good believers as well. I may not believe in the god of Christ or Moses, but many of the things that they did were for the good of all mankind. The messages of the Reverend Martin Luther King were needed. Religious people around the world have made many important contributions to today's society, but I believe that they would have made them even if there were no religions. Religions are usually a drain on morals rather than an enforcer of them. Most religions create fear and power. It is wrong to create these things. Humans are naturally moral and with freedom, they stay that way.
If we eliminate oppression, religion would become purposeless--- ask your clergy! Merry Christmas."
REMEMBERING ASSYRIANS IN THE HOMELAND AT CHRISTMAS
Dear Fellow Assyrians,
As we celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, let us remember our brothers and sisters living in our homeland, Bet-Nahrain. They are a testament to our survival as a people for over 7,000 years. yet, our brethren are in need today through no fault of theirs. They need to rebuild their houses, their schools and their churches. They need medical help for the sick, books for the children and food for the poor.
Please help them in this blessed season and give generously. May God fill your home with joy and happiness in the New Year. All of your contributions are deductible to the extent allowable by law, as we are a 501(C-3) humanitarian aid organization.
Narsai M. David
Assyrian Aid Society of America
Send your holiday gifts to:
Assyrian Aid Society of America
350 Berkeley Park Blvd
Berkeley, California 94707
or contact your local AAS in America and Europe.
Win a new house in Turlock, California! In helping to support the construction of the Mar Addai Church of the East in Turlock, five thousand (5,000) one hundred dollar tickets ($100.00) are being sold between now and Easter Sunday of 4 April 1999. The drawing will be televised live on KBSV Channel 24 (AssyriaVision). The first prize is a brand new 3-bedroom, 2 baths house in Turlock. Other prizes include: a 1999 VW Beetle (2nd Prize), a trip to Hawaii for two (3rd Prize), a 40-inch big screen TV (4th Price), and a gold watch (5th Prize). For more information and tickets call:
Julia (209) 669-8037
Alice (209) 669-7311
Church (209) 669-7678
Mar Addai Church of the East Project
With permission of the Nando Media
(ZNAP: Jerusalem) A curtain opens, revealing three monks and
a priest circling an altar. Incense
and chants in Aramaic, the ancient language of Jesus, fill the dark space. The gilt of the altar and the priest's cape shine in the candlelight of the empty chapel.
The Syrian Orthodox clerics face the altar and kiss the brass chains of the incense shaker and the silver-covered Bible. Toward the end of Mass, a lone member of the congregation enters to offer prayers and take communion with them.
The Syrian Orthodox community of Jerusalem is shrinking. Only about 150 families remain in the holy city, compared to about 2,000 before the 1948 Mideast war.
Emigration continues to whittle away at the congregation, which doesn't have enough clergymen to celebrate Mass daily and has cut back to three a week.
As the numbers dwindle, fewer and fewer among the younger generation speak Aramaic even though church leaders feel it is their sacred duty to keep the language of Jesus alive.
"We believe it is a holy language, consecrated by our Lord Jesus Christ for 2,000 years," says the Rev. Shemun Can, speaking in a sunny monastery courtyard outside the chapel in Jerusalem's walled Old City.
The Syrian Orthodox Church has about 2.5 million followers worldwide, nearly 2 million of them in India's southern state of Kerala, where the Christian community aligned itself with the Syrian church in 1644. The rest are scattered about the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.
Some 500,000 to 800,000 people, mainly in the Middle East and Europe, speak dialects of Aramaic.
There have been some efforts to teach the language to young people. But the 3,000-year-old language is likely to die out within two or three decades, says Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Academy of Hebrew Language in Jerusalem.
Elie Kouz, owner of a ceramics shop in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, studied Aramaic as a young man in a monastery in preparation for the priesthood.
"I can read, but I cannot understand what it means," Kouz says, noting Aramaic is generally not used outside church services in Jerusalem.
He says he wishes his 11-year-old daughter understood more than just a few words and expressions used in prayers.
"I believe, in 10 years, if my community doesn't open a school, I think slowly, slowly the Aramaic language will be finished in the Middle East and will be only for the monks," Kouz says.
About 40 families among the city's Syrian Orthodox have begun saving money in hopes of buying land and building a housing development in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in traditionally Arab East Jerusalem.
Such a project, they say, could draw together church members now scattered around the city and help stem the wave of emigration that has engulfed not only the Syrian Orthodox but other Palestinian Christian communities in the Holy Land.
Church member Johnny Ozgul, who has seen most of his friends emigrate over the years, says a small church could be built as part of the Beit Hanina project.
More people would come to Mass then, he says, sitting in his silversmith shop where a card bearing the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic hangs over crowded cases. "Nobody will have the excuse of 'It's too far away.' These are our excuses."
But the future of the housing project is uncertain. The community has found neither the land nor the money to buy it.
Kouz, the owner of the ceramics shop, says only heavenly intervention can help now. "Maybe if there's a miracle, they can do it."
ANN S. KIM
Associated Press Writer
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
|Through Dec 23||
ASSYRIAN ART FOR NORTHERN IRAQ
Artist: Edvin Takhsh
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Takhsh art pieces
will benefit the current projects of the Assyrian Aid Society
in northern Iraq.
NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
Assyrian Aid Society / Santa Clara Chapter
NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
1999 New Year's Eve Dinner Dance Party
NUZI & THE HURRIANS: FRAGMENTS OF A FORGOTTEN PAST
Hurrian settlements in Bet-Nahrain during mid-2nd millennium B.C. Hurrians settled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers during the mid-second millennium B.C. The Pharaohs of Egypt sought marriage alliances with them and the Hittites feared them. More than 100 objects excavated by Harvard between 1927 & 1931
Harvard University's Semitic Museum
MEETINGS & CLASSES
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Provided by Nineveh Online
Call (209) 578-5511
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ASSYRIAN SURFING POSTS
Links to Other Assyrian Websites
Nakosha Magazine's December Issue
Ishtar Assyrian Magazine
PUMP UP THE VOLUME
||Beginner's Luck: tdaav-gaddoota d'Msharyana|
||Intermediary Lessons: doorashe mitqadmaneh|
This week's Assyrian words come from the December issue of Nakosha Newsletter [See Assyrian Surfing Posts.]
Cycles & Observances of the Eastern Assyrian Liturgical Calendars
Mor Zokhe (Nicolas)
Annunciation of Mary
AAC = Ancient Assyrian Church of the East
ACE = Assyrian Church of the East
CCC = Chaldean Catholic Church
MCC= Maronite Catholic Church
MOC = Malankara Orthodox Church
SCC = Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch
SKC = Syrian Knanaya Church
SOC = Syrian Orthodox Church
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The Early Sumerian Period begins around this time, shortly before the invention of writing in southern Bet-Nahrain (Mesopotamia). This is regarded to be the time of the earliest high civilization. ESP lasts until 2800 B.C.
The Ancient Orient, von Soden
By this time Assyrian missions had penetrated into Eastern and Western Turkistan, Mongolia, Manchuria, North China, and South-Eastern Siberia. There were already bishoprics in Rayy, Herat, Merv, Tehran, Eshphehan, Gilan, Sijistan, and Tus. Edessa (Urhai) had become the metropolis of the Syriac-speaking Church and there was hardly a town without its church and bishop in Persia and Mesopotamia.
Early Spread of Christianity in Central Asia and the Far East, A. Mingana
2,000 YEARS BEFORE COPERNICUS
Were the earlier Greek astronomers, living in Asia Minor, better informed than their successors because they could draw on Mesopotamian sources?
Hipparchus, in fact, confirmed in his writings that this studies were based on knowledge accumulated and verified over many millenia. He named as his mentors "Babylonians astronomers of Erech, Borsippa, and Babylon." Geminus of Rhodes named the "Chaldeans" as the discoverers of the exact motions of the Moon. The historian Diodorus Siculus, writing in the first century B.C. confirmed the exactness of Mesopotamian astronomy; he stated that "the Chaldeans named the planets...in the center of their system was the Sun; the greatest light, of which the planets were offspring, reflecting the Sun's position and shine."
The achnowledged source of Greek astronomical knowledge was then, Chaldea; invariably, those earlier Chaldeans possessed greater and more accurate knowledge than the peoples that followed them. For generations, throughout the ancient world, the name "Chaldean" was synonymous with "stargazers," and astronomers.
The 12th Planet, Sitchin
In 1512 A.D., two thousand years after astronomy in southern Bet-Nahrain,
Nicolaus Copernicus in Europe writes in his Commentariolus that "the earth and the other planets turn around the sun."
In 1633, the Italian scientist, Galileo Galili, was forced by
the Inquisition to abjure the theories of Copernicus.
THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
December 16, 1925: When the League of Nations allocated the province of Mosul to
the new Iraqi autonomous kingdom and the Assyrian Hakkari to the
new independent Kemalist Turkey - the
Assyrians felt abandoned. This error committed by this international institution was due to the fact that the interest of state prevailed over the interest of ethnic groups - thus satisfying the military and economical British interests in Iraq, the new Arab majority nationalism in Baghdad and some Turkish interest in Ankara. The oil field of Mosul determined this choice.
The Assyrian Question, Joseph Yacoub
"YOU GOT MAIL!"
On Saturday, Dec 12th in Vienna, Austria, Bernadette Miraziz and Ashur Nissan, both Zenda readers, tied the matrimonial knots. They are the first couple to my knowledge who met through the Internet, one from Austria and the other from Finland. I wish both of them a life full of blessing and love. Congratulation Bernadette and Ashur."
San Jose, California
WELCOME TO ZENDA
This Week's Contributors:
in alphabetical order
|David Chibo||Australia||Assyrian Surfing Posts|
|Emanuel Daryoush||California||Surfers Corner|
|Carlo Ganjeh||California||Good Morning Bet-Nahrain|
|Dr. George Habash||United Kingdom||Surfers Corner|
|Ghassan Hanna||California||News Digest|
|Dr. Zaineb Istrabadi||New York||Good Morning Bet-Nahrain
|Rita Pirayou||California||This Week in History|
|Marko Puljik||Good Morning Bet-Nahrain|
|Francis Sarguis||California||Good Morning Bet-Nahrain|
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ZNCW: Catholic World News