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Volume IX

Issue 27

1 September 2003
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This Week In Zinda

cover photo

  Man of Action
  Nadan Yonadam
Most Assyrians are Christian. What will their fate be?
Consequences of the Absence of an Assyrian Agenda in Baghdad
  Patriarchal Standstill in Baghdad
Assyrian Appointed to Iraqi Cabinet Position
Assyrians in Syria Mourn al-Hakim
  New Industry in Baghdad: Kidnapping for Ransom
60 Cuneiform Tablets Found at Kultepe (Kanesh) in Kayseri, Turkey
Original Language of Quran was Aramaic, Not Arabic
Ancient Medieval City of Hasankeyf Threatened by Dam Construction

For the Attention of the Assyrian G8
On Whose Side are You?
Solhkhah vs. Naby
No Human Deserves to Cry Themselves to Sleep
Qala Aturaya Interviews Yonadam Kanna
Sawa Radio Station

  Urgent Appeal for Worldwide Support
  Letter from Baghdad
What Would Jesus Speak?
Preserve history, Then Manipulate It
  Rabel’s Art




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Zinda Says


The shock of Nadan Yonadam’s death still lingers in the minds of those of us who had the fortune of knowing him, working with him, and hearing his counsel on the Assyrian national movement. I met Nadan 15 years ago in Modesto, California where he lived with his family. During all these years he continued to profess his singular belief in progress through action and not words. “Enough words of who did what and how glorious our past was. Let’s pick up the pieces and move on,” was the last statement he made during a late night visit to my residence where a group of us were delving into the efficacy of today’s political parties in Iraq and in the Diaspora.

On 19 August Nadan was killed in action, while delivering his final words. An attack on a military convoy in Tikrit, Iraq ended the life of a true Assyrian patriot whose simple but powerful message echoed in every aspect of his life. Nadan was a former Assyrian Universal Alliance Secretary and a current member of the Assyrian National Organization. Soon after the liberation of Iraq, Nadan returned to his birthplace and took part in the rebuilding of his devastated homeland. Working as a civilian translator for the occupation force, he took his message of action knowing very well the risks involved with joining the infantary division he was aiding. The U.S. forces were conducting a raid in search of the Baathist attackers and were acting on tips given by Tikriti citizens. Nadan and two wounded soldiers were traveling in the Tikrit market district.

Nadan was a no non-sense kind of a fellow. You either are or are not an Assyrian, Nadan would say, and you either help your fellow Assyrians or stay off my path. He disliked the two-faced politicians and behind-the-microphone warriors. “If you really mean what you say, come with me to Bet-Nahrain and help me rebuild OUR homeland.”

Let us remember Nadan’s dedication and love for his people with more than just a few words of praise. His friends have already suggested the naming of the Assyrian Heritage Room at California State University in Stanislaus as the Nadan Yonadam Room. He would have liked this. Let’s do more by eulogizing the do-ers like Nadan and ignoring the ineffective chanters he avoided at all cost.

Our mournful staff at Zinda Magazine offers condolences to Nadan’s wife, Juliet, and their two sons – Atouraya and Khouyada. Everytime a thought becomes a word and a word transforms into a constructive deed, Nadan will be sorely missed.

Wilfred Bet-Alkhas

The Lighthouse

September 21, 1946 – August 19, 2003

August 19, 2003, Tikrit, Iraq. Special Ops forces are sent in to investigate shooting and gunfire that took place the day before. The US soldiers are ambushed and attacked with a grenade launcher. Machine gunfire hoses them down as they try to take cover. The soldiers are wounded. They sustained one fatal casualty, their interpreter, Nadan Younadam.

August 24, 2003, Mar Odisho Church in Chicago. Juliet, Nadan’s wife of 30 years, and his sons, Khouyada, 24 and Atouraya, 21, were comforted by friends, family and dedicated compatriots in a heart wrenching wake that mourned the loss and, at the same time, celebrated the admirable life of a noble Assyrian that served his nation till the very end.

Nadan pristinely believed in and dedicated his life to the Assyrian Cause. He did not have to contemplate about volunteering to aid the Coalition Forces, particularly the US military, in the war to topple the Iraqi dictator. For him it was a golden opportunity to return to his homeland and contribute to cleansing the region of the inhumane government notorious for its disregard of human life and rights and its continuation of the legacy of persecution towards Assyrians in the Middle East.

Nadan was born in Nouhadra (Dohuk), North Iraq on September 21, 1946. He graduated Dohuk High School in 1964 and served 2 years in the Iraqi Army. In 1973 he married Juliet Toma in Lebanon and immigrated to the United States. Nadan had two sons, whom he named after the two most important elements required for national survival, Khouyada (Unity) and Atouraya (Assyrian).

In 1973, upon arriving to the U.S., he joined the Assyrian Universal Alliance (Khoyada Teeweelaya Atouraya). From 1976 to 1980, Nadan served in the U.S. Navy. He was a member of the AUA Central Committee from 1988 to 1989. He was an AUA Executive Board Member from 1988 to August 19, 2003.

Nadan’s love for his Omta was clearly portrayed in his actions and efforts in life. In 1984 he traveled to Washington, DC to protest the arrival of Tariq Aziz and his intentions of establishing an Iraqi Embassy in the U.S. In 1992, Nadan traveled to Northern Iraq following the uprising to transport aid to the Assyrians of that region. In 1994, he was one of the founders of the political arm of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. In 2000, he organized the first Congress of the Assyrian National Organization (Mtakasta) in Northern Iraq. Between 2000 and August 19, 2003, he was a member of the political bureau of the Assyrian National Organization as well as its secretary to Canada and the United States.

The importance of grassroots community involvement was not overlooked by Nadan. In 2000, he organized the first Kha B’Neesan parade in Stanislaus, CA. In 2003, prior to his departure for Iraq, he organized the construction effort of an Assyrian Library in the Urhai Club of Stanislaus, CA.

To Nadan Younadam the prime directive was simple and consisted of two parts: 1) preserve and perpetuate the Assyrian culture and 2) the nation or “Omta Atoureta” is above any and all organizations, institutions, individuals and groups.

Nothing demonstrated Nadan’s dedication to his convictions and his people more, than his decision to go and risk his life side by side with the Coalition Forces for the sake of establishing democracy in Iraq and thereby securing the future of the Assyrian people in the Assyrian Homeland.

Nadan Younadam went to Iraq knowing full well that he may die. He left his family and embarked on his mission for the sake of justice and freedom. The Assyrian Nation did not lose a patriot, it gained a martyr. For Martyrs make the ultimate sacrifice to advance a belief, cause and principle.

Nadan had requested to be laid to rest in Nouhadra, North Iraq should anything happen to him. May God rest His Soul and bless his family and friends for their loss.

Sheren Jasim


Ambrose Bierce wrote: "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." A quip too true to be entirely funny.
The Iraq war has introduced us to the Assyrians, a people whom most Americans probably associate with the Bible and assume must have disappeared millennia ago. Yet there they are, on TV, with one of them, Younadem Kanna, taking a seat on Iraq's new governing council. Their precarious history speaks to the perils of the current moment.

Iraq's Assyrians claim direct descent from the original inhabitants of Iraq, who built the tower of Babel and enthusiastically received Jonah's grudging call for repentance at Nineveh. They have names like Sargon, the king described by Isaiah, or Nimrod, the "mighty hunter before the Lord" portrayed in Genesis. They are an ancient ethnic group distinct from the Arabs, who invaded their land in the seventh century.

In one respect, though, they are very different from their forebears: The large majority is now Christian (though there are also Sabean Mandeans, who believe that John the Baptist was the Messiah, and Yazidis, who put great stress on angels). According to tradition, they first became Christians through the mission of the apostle Thomas ("doubting Thomas"), and the church is old enough for it to be true. They continue to speak a version of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
Since many of them dissented from decisions by early church councils on the nature of Christ, they were pushed to the margins of the Christian world, often attacked by Byzantine Christians and, later, by Muslims, and forced into Persia and remote areas of Iraq.

The Ancient Church of the East, often called "Nestorian," responded to this persecution by becoming one of the greatest missionary churches in history, establishing 250 dioceses and 1,000 monasteries from Iraq to India and China. In 1552, many members entered into communion with the Roman Catholic Church, which led to the formation of the Chaldean church, which now includes the majority of Iraq's Christians.

Since Assyrians are geographically hemmed in by Persians, Turks, Kurds and Arabs, they have suffered terrible persecution in the modern era. In 1915, many were slaughtered by the Ottomans and the Kurds. In 1919, they sought their own state. When the British took over Mesopotamia after World War I, they judged the Assyrians' situation so desperate that they considered moving them to Canada. In 1930, there were proposals to transfer them to South America, in 1932 to Syria. Following massacres by the Arabs in 1933, the British flew the patriarch to Cyprus for safety while the League of Nations debated moving them to Brazil or Niger(!). Under Saddam's censuses, they were not allowed to register as Assyrians, only as Arabs or Kurds. Now many Assyrians have fled to southern California and Chicago, and Chaldeans to Detroit.

Middle East scholar Mordechai Nisan has written that the "cutting edge of modern Middle Eastern statehood was a cruel portent for certain minority peoples, specifically Christian ones like Armenians in Turkey and Assyrians in Iraq." The "tyranny of the majority" was, he notes, "a formula in the East for repression and loss on a grand scale."

And today? Interviewing Assyrian leaders recently in Baghdad, I found the lessons of this history crystallized in their continuing fear of such a tyranny. They worry that America will yield to demands for Islamic law from the Islamist bloc in the new Iraqi governing council and that they will once more become a barely tolerated and often despised minority.

If the U.S. treats them as the British did, as one more inconvenient minority in the Middle East who must be sacrificed to the greater good of mollifying Arab and Muslim sentiment, then Chicago and Detroit, and America as a whole, will gain from these talented immigrants. But we will have presided over the demise of one of Iraq's, and the world's, most ancient religions and peoples.

Paul Marshall
Wall Street Journal
22 August

[Z-info: Mr. Marshall is a senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.]


To every genuine Assyrian the nationalistic feeling is that those who speak for us are leading us astray. They lack objectives and as my Holy Bible teaches me our men are not in the world but of the world and in other words they are not in the real world.

I am keen in understanding politics but fail to understand the daily occurring in Baghdad ever since an American tank pulled down the dictator’s statue in central Baghdad.

We waited long for that day to happen and our expectations were surely high that after the deluge the Assyrian march will be unstoppable but for our dismay we the genuine Assyrian masses feel that our march has halted.

We have too many political organisations worldwide and on the ground Zowaa Democrataya Ashuraya catapulted itself to the front of Assyrian politics especially the years following the first Gulf war but after the second Gulf war and the demise of the Aflaqite regime Zowaa nearly monopolised the Assyrian politics by regarding itself as the sole speaker and representative for our oppressed nation.

I am for Zowaa in the past but after the current developments in Baghdad Zowaa has terribly failed to hold high the banner of the Assyrian uprising and the Assyrian liberation and the Assyrian permanent revolution. It has seriously lost the confidence of our masses in conveying the demand of every Assyrian-the nationhood.

With the American forces closing in from all fronts bashing the petty regulars, semi-regulars, irregulars and mercenaries of the shabby regime the Kurds moved quickly to consolidate their presence in our Assyrian heartland without a whistle blowing from our Assyrian spokesmen. The only thing the Assyrian leadership did was just opening offices alongside the Kurdish offices.

The Kurdish intruders now have offices in every Assyrian town despite the absence of Kurdish grassroots and persist to claim that the entire land is part of the Kurdish equation. This is in fulfilment of an outcry by the Kurdish warlords before the war that some parts of the ‘Kurdish’ lands are still beyond their control-the Assyrian Nineveh.

What role has Zowaa or any Assyrian party played in rebuffing and forcing the Kurds out of our heartland or asking the Kurds to retreat from our beloved lands in Duhok and Arbil provinces?

Zowaa has achieved nothing for the Assyrian nation since April 9 beyond opening of party offices, interviews with anti Christianity CNN and the likes and a negligible membership of the current reactionary council of Baghdad.

If any Assyrian raises a question, the instant reply is that Zowaa has participation in other committees for re-writing and re-organising Baghdad.

What veto has a single Assyrian in a council with other 24 Muslims? Zowaa will approve what the rest decides. What veto has a single Assyrian in a committee for re-writing Baghdad? Can a single Assyrian force a giant body of elephants to endorse an Assyrian governorate in the plain of Nineveh our heartland and force the Kurds to retreat from parts of Dohuk and Arbil?

Why should Zowaa accept one seat among the council? The minorities together should have at least 5 seats out of the 25, representing Assyrians, Yazidis and Mandeans. Zowaa never evolved such thought and was happy to grab the chair before it was gone. This is our weakness that we fail to assert the Assyrian agenda and almost in the end we will get what we already had before from rights to go to church, to go to university, to have mayors and diluted presence in our towns and to have a single seat in the future cabinet.

The signs of doom are very visible from the current council and I can see the nature of Baghdad tomorrow. What do you expect from such a miserable council where the Assyrian party is without Assyrianism, the Communist party without Communism and Chadirchy without Chadirchism?

This council is a myth and the reality is that out of this council will emerge a government in the future that will turn the clocks back to the times of 1933 (the Simel year). A man in this council who returned to the country on American tank after he left it as boy is preparing the way for a Hijazi to rule who returned to Baghdad in private plane after leaving it as a toddler via Saudi embassy. It is the Biblical way of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus to come.

Zowaa does not have a say in the nature of future government in Baghdad and will approve what is decided by others.
With April 9 the political cycle has completed and I remember well how in summer 1968 when Saddam al Tikriti, a student and Ahmed al-Bakir, a retired officer seize power in Baghdad. Was this possible without the interference of foreign powers?

In 1968 Saddam was given power and did not take it himself and his role was to wipe out many republican generations and in 35 years he did so with much blood up to his eyes.

How did such regime survive such long stay without the support provided from outside? It is impossible. How could such regime withstand eight years of bloody war with a formidable neighbour? At that time the world over stood by the dictator especially the west.

I have been living in Britain for many years and during all these years Saddam’s agents never stopped strolling the streets of Britain even up to the demise of the regime on April 9 and beyond. This was not with the knowledge of Britain only but indeed was coordinated, programmed, guided and sustained by Britain. I am a witness and I am ready to testify and I will testify.

In return for that service Saddam relinquished power on April 9 the same power that was given to him to be replaced by direct rule from outside and now we are back to the 1933 the year Arabic Baghdad killed our people while the colonialists watched.

Why should we fail again to assert our Assyrian agenda after 100 years of hard struggle and sideline our cause for the sake of a country that is ungovernable? Why should we base our action on begging while the other communities are bent on grab and control?

There is no future for us in a community founded on RPG, grenades, human bombs and car bombs to achieve its objectives.

Saddam already has relatives in Britain and presently has many grandchildren who will later move to join others and in 20 to 30 years they will form a government in exile to retake Baghdad and the cycle of bloodshed repeated. Shall we continue to burn ourselves in the smouldering fire of others?

In the eight-year war with neighbour we the Assyrians sacrificed 40,000 souls for the sake of keeping the heathen despot in power and the reward was he turned Islamic by making the country an Islamic state as a punishment for Christianity.

We suffered too much and no genuine Assyrian can stand anymore the self destruction at home and the life of misery in exile. We all need a homeland and we all want to return to our towns and villages forcing the occupiers out and build our young nation.

We ask our Assyrian representatives and Zowaa in particular to adopt the following points for the sake of our oppressed people:

1. A government be established based on technocrats and this government should be representative but not proportional. Proportional representation is a myth and does not apply to us because we are the indigenous people, always under populated and mostly live in the north and in Baghdad area. The rest of the country is nearly empty from Assyrians. The Assyrians with Yazidis and Mandeans should have 5 seats in a council of 20-25 members.
Further the Assyrians must insist that the regime of April 9 must be republican based on 14 July 1958, progressive, secular and if federal the Assyrian will be part of that federation. We have to insist that there is no return to 1933-The Simel year.

2. Re-structuring the country by creating an Assyrian province in the Assyrian triangle and ask for the Kurdish retreat from our lands. The Assyrian presence in Baghdad may no longer be tenable and therefore this requires the transfer of our people to the north and the creation of many new Assyrian towns and villages. And for us Assyrians in exile it is meaningless to continue the Assyrian politics if no longer wish to return but most of us will return provided that the establishing of a secure Assyrian entity in the north is guaranteed. From this restructuring of the country, a federal system may evolve for each ethnic group with its sovereign borders

3. The unity of our people who constitute to our one Assyrian nation must be based in the participation of all the constituents. Here in this case members of the Chaldean church be given higher role to play in Assyrian politics due to the demographic factor without compromising in the national issues of our politics.

Zowaa can not take this task alone and must coordinate with other Assyrian groups, and all together must never fail to shake Baghdad to its foundations and make our voice heard.

We have to see signs to believe and so far there is no such sign that we Assyrians have achieved anything after April 9 comparing with the arrogant rampant elephants.

As I watch news daily and as some who conveyed news to us from Baghdad we can see nothing real for Assyrian optimism but there is only one thing real in Baghdad and that is a ‘mobile’ British embassy, an omen that we Assyrians, Americans and all humanity continue to suffer.

Dr. George Habash
United Kingdom




(ZNDA: Baghdad) The world's Chaldean Catholic bishops gathering in Baghdad, under extremely difficult conditions, have reached a standstill in electing the new Patriarch for their church.

Following the death of Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid on July 7, the leaders of the world's 20 Chaldean Catholic dioceses have been gathering in Baghdad since August 19 for a synod at which they elect a new leader for their Church. As with most Eastern Catholic churches, the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church is elected by the bishops of that rite, and then "recognized" by the Holy See in Vatican.

With communications between Baghdad and the outside world suffering because of the chaotic state of the city, which is suffering from recurrent electrical failures and sporadic violence, very little news of the Chaldean synod has been made available. However, reliable sources to Zinda Magazine explain that the behind-closed-doors assembly of bishops reached a standstill by last Friday when no bishop received a required two-thirds vote. According to these sources, Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria received 12 votes and Bishop Sarhad Jammo from U.S. a total of 8 votes. One bishop abstained from voting and Bishop of Istanbul failed to attend the synod. A minimum of 14 votes was needed to secure the position of the next Chaldean Catholic Patriarch.

In the event of such standstill the Holy See in Vatican, according to the canons of the Church, is expected to intervene and select the next Patriarch. A decision is expected as early as this week.


(ZNDA: Baghdad) Most of the 25 newly selected Iraqi cabinet appointees took the oath of office before Mr. Ahmad Chalabi, the current president of Iraq's Interim Governing Council. The cabinet ministers will report to the Council, which in turn reports to the U.S. chief administrator in Iraq, Mr. Paul Bremer.

The cabinet positions were divided on 1 September among the country's ethnic communities -- 13 to Shiites, 5 to Sunnis, 5 to Kurds, 1 to Turkomans and 1 to Assyrians. Mr. Behnam Zayya Polis was appointed as the Minister of Transportation.

The following is a breakdown of the cabinet positions held by various ethnic groups:

Shiite-held Cabinet Positions:
Construction and Housing
Immigration and Refugees
Sport and Youth
Work and Social Affairs

Sunni-held Cabinet Positions:
Higher Education
Human Rights

Kurdish-held Cabinet Positions:
Foreign Affairs
Industry and Minerals
Public Works
Water Resources

Turkoman-held Cabinet Position:
Science and Technology

Assyrian-held Cabinet Position:
Transport - Behnam Zayya Polis, Assyrian Christian


With special thanks to Mr. Salym Abraham reporting from Syria

(ZNDA: Sayda Zeinab) Some 5,000 Iraqi Shiites marched down the main street of Sayda Zeinab near Damascus on
Tuesday to mourn Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, a moderate Shiite leader who was killed in a car bombing in
Iraq last week.

Beating their chests and shouting, “Allahu Akbar” or God is great, “Al-Hakim has passed away” the mourners
carried a symbolic coffin wrapped in black, as well as posters bearing images of the cleric.

Representatives of Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups, including the Kurds and the Christian Assyrians, also participated in the symbolic funeral at Sayda Zeinab.

The Assyrian mourners carried a banner that read, “We swear by the innocent blood of martyrs (that) we will not
allow another tyrant to desecrate our home again.” Hussein Sheik al-Islam, Iran's ambassador to Syria, and
representatives of the Damascus-based Palestinian factions were among the crowd.

A similar symbolic funeral was held in southern Beirut, in which some 300 chest-beating Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite
youths hoisted a flag-draped coffin and waved al-Hakim posters.

Al-Hakim, a moderate cleric who opposed Saddam Hussein and had counseled cooperation with the United States after the war, was among at least 84 people killed Friday in the bombing at a mosque in the holy city of Najaf in southern

News Digest


Courtesy of the New York Times (26 August); by Robert F. Worth

(ZNDA: Baghdad) One morning last month, Martin Shukur was standing outside his family's home when a gray Mercedes-Benz sedan rolled up to the front gate with four well-dressed men inside.

"Are you Adnan's son?" one of them asked.

Martin, a tall, baby-faced 17-year-old whose father is a wealthy businessman, said yes. One of the men pulled out an AK-47 and demanded that Martin get into the car. It was the beginning of a 16-day ordeal that ended only when Martin's father paid a $30,000 ransom — a vast sum in Iraq. Martin was returned alive, though badly beaten.

He is the latest reported victim in a wave of kidnappings, Iraqi officials say, by members of Saddam Hussein's security and intelligence services. The kidnappers are well armed and organized, and often use torture techniques similar to those used against political prisoners under the old government. The kidnappers seem to have access to information about the capital's wealthiest families and have been paid as much as $100,000 in ransom.

American officials working with the Iraqi police say the vast majority of the kidnappings are not being reported, though, because the families either are too frightened or simply lack any faith in the new police force, which is still small and ill equipped.

"This is happening all the time," said Adnan Shukur, as he sat with Martin and other relatives in the family's elegant living room. "They took him on the street, with people watching. We believe nothing will stop them from taking him away again."

Only four kidnappings since the war have led to full-scale investigations in which the criminals were arrested or identified, said Nouman Shubbar, an Iraqi-born Philadelphia police sergeant who is advising the police. It is unclear whether others might have been reported without an adequate response by the police.

Based on reports from victims, though, the number of kidnappings over the past three months appears to be at least 40 in Baghdad alone, said Emad Dhia, the director of the Iraq Reconstruction and Development Council, a group of former dissidents who provide intelligence to the United States military and the Iraqi police. In most cases, though not all, the kidnappers seem to have been members of Saddam Hussein's government, Mr. Dhia said.

In many respects, Martin's experience was typical.

Three days after abducting him, a kidnapper called his terrified parents and demanded $250,000, saying that if they did not pay, their son would be killed and another of the Shukurs' five children would be taken.

Mr. Shukur called the police, he said, and was told there was little they could do.

"We were neither dead nor alive," said Mr. Shukur, as he sat, stone-faced, recalling the time when his son was gone. "Those were terrible days."

As the family waited, Martin lay blindfolded and tied to a stairwell somewhere in Baghdad, he said. During the first several days, the kidnappers punched him repeatedly in the face and beat his back with electrical cables. At times he heard at least three other hostages in nearby rooms, and he heard the kidnappers talking about one who had managed to escape.

Later Martin was moved to another house. There, he said, he heard the kidnappers recalling an attack on American soldiers in June and making plans to buy shoulder-launched missiles to fire at American helicopters.

"Don't worry, your father's money will not go in vain," one of them told him. "We will use it to continue our attacks against the Americans."

Kidnapping was rare in Iraq before the war, Mr. Shubbar said. But in a way it is not surprising that members of the former government should turn to kidnapping, Mr. Dhia said, because Mr. Hussein's security agents abducted tens of thousands of people for political reasons.

"They've lost their jobs, they've lost power, and this is what they're trained to do," he said.

About a week after Martin's abduction, a local priest came to see the Shukurs, who are Christian. He told them that a man had told him where Martin was being held, and how to find the house.

The family went to a local American military post. An Army captain agreed to go with Martin's uncle and father to the house, but after breaking down the door, he and his soldiers found no one there, said the uncle, Majid Ameen Saleem.

Later, the man who had spoken to the priest said the kidnappers had just moved Martin to another house when the soldiers arrived. One official at the development council said there were indications that the police might be working with kidnappers in some cases.

Eventually, the kidnappers agreed to free Martin for $30,000. A man calling himself an intermediary came to the house, warning that he would shoot at any sign of the police or American soldiers. He drove a friend of the Shukur family to an alley in the northern part of Baghdad, where he disappeared with Mr. Shukur's $30,000 in cash, and returned 15 minutes later with Martin.

Martin and his parents were delirious with relief and joy when they saw each other. But Mr. Shukur said he had decided there was no safety in this country. He and Mr. Saleem plan to move their entire extended family to the United States.


Courtesy of Zaman Newspaper; 21 August 2003

(ZNDA: Turkey) Sixty cuneiform tablets were found at a site in Kultepe (Kanesh) in Kayseri. The site is considered to be one of Turkey's most important historical sites, once used by Assyrian merchants.

Prof. Dr. Tahsin Ozguc, in charge of the Kultepe (Kanesh) excavation, said: "These tablets are the results of one week work. Although we have begun working late, we found 60 cuneiform tablets that belong to Assyrian trade colonies."

"This year we have found earthenware pots, potters, tools from different times, and also well- preserved clay tablets in our excavations. These tablets were made just before the foundation of Hittite Empire around 1730-1800 B.C. I think these tablets will help our understanding and shed light on this period of history."

Ozguc explained that excavations have reached the floor of the first layer. Ozguc added that if they have the opportunity, they would dig to the second layer, which is considered to be the richest period of the Assyrian colony.

Prof. Dr. Tahsin Ozguc has been excavating continuously at the Kultepe site for 55 years. Berlin, Munich, and Gent Universities have awarded Tahsin Ozguc honorary doctorates, and he is a member of the British, Munich, and Turkish Academy of Sciences.


Courtesy of the Newsweek International; article by Stefan Theil

(ZNDA: New York) In a note of encouragement to his fellow hijackers, September 11 ringleader Muhammad Atta cheered their impending “marriage in Paradise” to the 72 wide-eyed virgins the Qur’an promises to the departed faithful. Palestinian newspapers have been known to describe the death of a suicide bomber as a “wedding to the black-eyed in eternal Paradise.” But if a German expert on Middle Eastern languages is correct, these hopes of sexual reward in the afterlife are based on a terrible misunderstanding.

Arguing that today's version of the Qur’an has been mistranscribed from the original text, scholar Christoph Luxenberg says that what are described as “houris” with “swelling breasts” refer to nothing more than “white raisins” and “juicy fruits.”

Luxenberg—a pseudonym—is one of a small but growing group of scholars, most of them working in non-Muslim countries, studying the language and history of the Qur’an. When his new book is published this fall, it’s likely to be the most far-reaching scholarly commentary on the Qur’an’s early genesis, taking this infant discipline far into uncharted—and highly controversial—territory. That’s because Islamic orthodoxy considers the holy book to be the verbatim revelation of Allah, speaking to his prophet, Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel, in Arabic. Therefore, critical study of God’s undiluted word has been off-limits in much of the Islamic world. (For the same reason, translations of the Qur’an are never considered authentic.) Islamic scholars who have dared ignore this taboo have often found themselves labeled heretics and targeted with death threats and violence. Luxenberg, a professor of Semitic languages at one of Germany’s leading universities, has chosen to remain anonymous because he fears a fatwa by enraged Islamic extremists.

Luxenberg’s chief hypothesis is that the original language of the Qur’an was not Arabic but something closer to Aramaic. He says the copy of the Qur’an used today is a mistranscription of the original text from Muhammad’s time, which according to Islamic tradition was destroyed by the third caliph, Osman, in the seventh century. But Arabic did not turn up as a written language until 150 years after Muhammad’s death, and most learned Arabs at that time spoke a version of Aramaic. Rereading the Paradise passage in Aramaic, the mysterious houris turn into raisins and fruit—much more common components of the Paradise myth.

The forthcoming book contains plenty of other bombshells. It claims that the Qur’an’s commandment for women to cover themselves is based on a similar misreading; in Sura 24, the verse that calls for women to “snap their scarves over their bags” becomes in Aramaic “snap their belts around their waists.” Even more explosive are readings that strengthen scholars’ views that the Qur’an had Christian origins. Sura 33 calls Muhammad the “seal of the prophets,” taken to mean the final and ultimate prophet of God. But an Aramaic reading, says Luxenberg, turns Muhammad into a “witness of the prophets”—i.e., someone who bears witness to the established Judeo-Christian texts. The Qur’an, in Arabic, talks about the “revelation” of Allah, but in Aramaic that term turns into “teaching” of the ancient Scriptures. The original Qur’an, Luxenberg contends, was in fact a Christian liturgical document—before an expanding Arab empire turned Muhammad’s teachings into the basis for its new religion long after the Prophet’s death.


Courtesy of MSN-TV (20 August)

(ZNDA: Ankara) One of the world’s only intact medieval cities’ Hasankeyf, faces a dark fate of being inundated beneath the waters of a dam.

Archaeologists have resumed excavations on the ancient city of Hasankeyf, located in the south eastern Turkish province of Mardin, fighting against time before construction of a dam on the nearby Tigris River threatens to flood the site.

This year’s dig began well behind schedule, according to the head of the archaeological team, Professor Olu? Ar?k, who blamed the Culture and Tourism Ministry for the three months long delay. This season, there will be a team of 40 technicians and 120 workers taking part in the one month long dig.

Ark, who has been working on the site since 1991, said that if excavations were kept with this speed that there would be a need for another 50 years to save the beautiful city.

“Excavations are like an operation,” he said. “There are no fast or slow ones, there is only the right one.”

He also said that in team’s precious work, their major discovery was a tile making industry in Hasankeyf, which has been home to many civilisations.

He also praised the statement by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan that Hasankeyf should not be destroyed for the sake of some energy and water.

However the fate of the city, once home to civilisations such as the Romans, Byzantines, Assyrians, Arabs and Ottomans and which was the capital for the Artuklular, is still unclear.

The medieval city is full of cave houses caved into rocks, mosques, palaces and old bridges crossing over the Biblical Tigris River.

Surfs Up!
Letters From Zinda Magazine Readers


Nimrod Baito – Assyrian Patriotic Party
Sargon Dadeesho – Assyrian National Congress
Praidon Darmo – Assyrian Universal Alliance
Romeo Hakari – Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party
Younan Hosea – Assyrian Democratic Movement
Emmanuel Kambar – Independent
Yonadam Kanna – Assyrian Democratic Movement
Albert Yelda – Independent

August 21, 2003

Gentlemen, even though I am not affiliated to any political group, I consider myself a member of the APP, ANC, AUA, BNDP and ADM. It is as a result of your relentless nationalistic efforts in unison with other patriotic and determined independent political activists that has given rise and inspired a national reawakening in particular over the last two to three decades. You had been knocking on the doors of global recognition for an awfully long time and never succumbed to deaf ears, consequently your persistence has paid off and blossomed to fruition, our inclusion within the Iraqi Governing Council amongst other recent achievements is a glowing testimony to your efforts, courage and resolve. Your places in history have almost certainly been assured, and in years to come your nation will look back and reminisce one way or the other, with praise or indignation. So in essence, it is the path that you choose to take that will determine your status in our nation’s history, it is they that recognise and make good the wrongs of their ways for the sacrificial benefit of this great and ancient nation that will be remembered and looked upon as our heroes.

I know you all, some more than others; I also know that you have all dedicated the best part of your lives serving your nation, and often under hostile and unpredictable conditions, but you withstood the test of time admirably, whilst Saddam’s legacy diminishes, yours has just begun.

You are no doubt all well acquainted with the latest bout of in-fighting that is threatening the unity of our nation, whilst other segments of the Iraqi society work diligently towards and in almost each case for the sole benefit of their own people, we it seems, are lost in the midst of a tumultuous and blinding debate that has diverted our attention from laying and asserting our foundations in the new Iraq into a fiery war of words that only serves the interests of our nations ill-wishers. I clearly understand the magnitude of the problem at hand, there are certainly valid points being raised from both camps of the nomenclatural debate, one shields the Assyrian identity over all else whilst the other seeks a compromise with our Chaldean people as a means towards the consolidation of our nation as one entity with full and equal religious, cultural and national rights during and after the reformation of our homeland, Iraq. What a wonderful opportunity we have to claim our st! ake in Iraq, it’s a one-off and up for grabs, time will not stop idly by whilst we settle our differences, we must remove the garments of party politics and don our national colours, you must do what is right for our future in Iraq.

Let’s not miss the boat this time and sigh deja vouz. It is imperative that you all come together just as you did during the Iraqi Opposition conference in December 2002, and in the same fraternal spirit, deliberate your conviction and render alternative proposals in accordance with the best interests of our nation at heart. It would be deemed unforgivable to remove yourselves completely from dialogue with one another, in fact it is incumbent upon you all to meet in the immediate future in order to resolve and not further inflame our predicament. We’ve all seen the light, now it’s up to you to find the tunnel that leads your people from despair to hope in the land of our forefathers.

I understand that a conference has been scheduled to commence in Baghdad, Iraq on 21.09.03 under the heading Chaldean Syrian Assyrian General Conference. Conceivably there will be some amongst you that will revile the significance of such a conference and label it as a conspiracy to altogether erase the Assyrian identity in Iraq. Perhaps it is a conspiracy, maybe not; one thing is for certain, that this is the most significant conference of our modern history and that you need to be there to shape it’s path.

I look forward to seeing all in Baghdad.

Your Assyrian brother,

Albert Michael
United Kingdom


"...in those days there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria...." (Isaiah 19:23-25)

"...he that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad...." (Matthew 12:30)

Many people reference the Isaiah 19:23-25 prophecy. I and many other believers also use it to remind ourselves and others that we Assyrians have a role in God's master plan. Rest assured that God has spoken and it shall be done.

In the meantime, we have been preoccupied with the compound-name issue and have been tackling it from nationalistic and secular points of views. We weigh its pros and cons for our nation in both short- and long-term planning. Some want immediate gratification and others are concerned about its long-term effects in lieu of the international law and human rights afforded to indigenous people. I wonder if we have been too busy with Caesar's portion only to ignore God's share.

The prophecy of Isaiah not only gives us Assyrians hope for Assyria, it is also a milestone in God's master plan. As sure as we Assyrians have enemies so does God - namely Satan. The fulfillment of this prophecy not only will attest to the truth of the Bible, but also brings us a step closer to the end days and the demise of Lucifer. Do we expect Satan to idly sit by and do nothing? Of course not. He will do whatever it takes to foil God's plans. One way to attack the word of God is to change the parameters so that it cannot be true, thus rendering it a myth instead of the truth.

I submit that changing the name of our nation to anything that does not entail Assyria and Assyrians is a work of Satan. This is an evil tactic to attack God's word by changing a vital parameter of Isaiah's unfulfilled prophecy. I further submit that those who are working on behalf of any compound-name(s) for our nation unknowingly partake and further Satan's plans and his interests. It is equally astounding that, to the best of my knowledge, none of our deacons, priests, bishops, or patriarchs of any sect have said anything about this formally. There is a war between the forces of good and evil and once more, we Assyrians, are caught in the middle. It is time to have a spiritual awakening.

I would like to close with a disclaimer that I do not know God's timing. All that is happening today, and as much as I want Isaiah's prophecy to come to pass in my lifetime, could be prior to God's eventual master plan. Although, it is awfully convincing.

Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, sayeth Isaiah: "...in those days there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria...."

Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, sayeth the Lord: "...he that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad...."

Bellos Nisan


In response to many requests and phone calls asking about the nature of the lawsuit that has brought about my withdrawal from Assyrian activities, I feel it only fair to provide further information to avoid the finger being pointed at the wrong parties.

The lawsuit is brought by Nariman (Norman) Solhkhah of Chicago in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Mr. Solhkhah accuses me personally of libel and slander in connection with a Melammu conference in the year 2000. In my opinion, Mr. Solhkhah's behavior was crude and offensive and fell far below standards of acceptable behavior at academic conferences. Moreover, I felt personally insulted and believed he had caused harm and embarrassment to the Assyrian community among academics from many countries who were attending the event. I believe other Assyrians and academics at the conference agree with me.

I wrote a letter to Mr. Solhkhah about his behavior and sent copies to several people involved in this conference. Mr. Solhkhah is suing me for about $2 million and so I have withdrawn from all my volunteer Assyrian activities in order to assess my action with regard to the lawsuit and with regard to the advisability of being involved in Assyrian volunteer efforts. Mr.Solhkhah's lawsuit is objectively baseless and was brought solely for the purpose of using the pendency of the litigation to harm me. As a result, and in spite of the baselessness of the claims, I have been forced to incur the expense of defending a multi-million dollar lawsuit and to endure the attendant stress and anxiety of being the target of such a suit. I am defending the action vigorously but I cannot both defend the suit and continue the academic and cultural activities that are so important to me and our community.

Dr. Eden Naby


For the past few years of my life, all I dreamed of is a home for my son by the name of Assyria, but today with sadness I say, it is no longer what I struggle for.

In the past decade, there has been an increase of awareness in human rights violations in every country. But evidence attests that women in particular have been denied their basic human rights.

As Assyrian women how do we negotiate within our own homes all the opportunities, needs, views, opinions and desires with which we are faced?

How much, do tradition and contemporary experiences encourage and shape our attitudes and responses? As we are expected to sew our eyes, stitch our mouths, tight our hands and be moved as slaves?

We will always be seen as followers throughout our lives, we are the possession of man in marriage. Providing ideological justifications for men’s use of violence in attempting to control women.

We have been conditioned to believe that all forms of violence towards women are ‘natural’. Some women consider such form of violence as their own destiny.

And there are those, who would stand on a high place and look down and scream, “We are a proud nation, that recognises and respects the rights and the role of the female”.

But how many Assyrian women do you see standing on that same place and holding the same opinion?

It is not men that create the entire situation that women must live through. It is also mothers and fathers along with society and the political system, who set the role models that children tend to learn and follow.

To blame the beauty of the Assyrian culture for men’s behaviour or what has transpired in the past is incorrect. We as a nation have lived among different cultures and religions and lost our own identity and adapted to those of our surroundings.

Change is what I will struggle to teach my son.

Change can be a potent force in our lives, one that can lead us in valuable new directions, one that would allow us to stand and be heard.

How others react to the unexpected, presents each of us with different challenges, different obstacles, and different opportunities.

But it’s a step we must take, and real equality is what we must strive for.

To all Assyrian women across the world, we have the right to be heard.

This article was written with the support of my husband. For further information on Assyrian Women Human Rights please email assyrian_womensrights@yahoo.co.uk .

Shoshan Lamassu
United Kingdom


The "Voice from Russia" program "Qala Aturaya" has addressed Mr. Yonadam Kanna, member of the Interim Governing Council, Secretary General of ADM with the request to answer a number of pressing questions.On August, 21 "Qala Aturaya" staff member Edward Badalov interviewed Mr. Yonadam Kanna, who during a half an hour conversation kindly gave detailed answers to all the questions, which represent essential significance for for the "Qala Aturaya".

In the beginning of the interview he described the situation in Iraq, especially having emphasized, that all illegal actions, such as robberies, murders, kidnapping were undertaken by those forces which would like to keep Saddam Hussein's mode.

Mr. Kanna told the program "Qala Aturaya" that the population as a whole positively perceives changes in Iraq and all the basic ethnic groups - Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans perceive the fact that Saddam's hated attitude has ended. They are sure of the construction of a new democratic Iraq in which human rights would be observed fully. He also noted, that the Council of 25 started the work actually from scratch and would create the necessary state structures.

As for the question concerning the destiny of the national minorities, deprived of representation in the Council - Armenians, Jews, Yezides, Mandeans Mr. Kanna explained that there remains only 50 Jews in Iraq; Armenians about 5000. He expressed his attitude towards Yezides noting that in view of culture and language we are concerned abut them as our brothers Kurds and try to get on fine with them. For their part Assyrians in Iraq maintain good relations with Mandeans, in particular sheikh Jabar Hillo.

Mr. Kanna hopes that the newly elected Committee into which Dr. Hikmat Hakim has been appointed to represent Chaldeo-Assyrians will within a short space of time prepare a new Constitution draft.

Mr. Badalov asked Rabbi Kanna if the Assyrian Democratic Movement was going to open up its representation office in Russia. He answered that due to certain circumstances problems were created, namely the fact that many Assyrians in the Diaspora are in poor command of their mother tongue and fully ignorant of the Arabic language. At the same time Mr. Kanna noticed, that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church invited them to visit Russia.

On the question of what Mr. Kanna thought abou the Convention of Assyrian American National Federation, he replied that these meetings have one positive feature - they unite ethno-confessional groups of the Assyrian nation. But Mr. Kanna did not mention political questions which could be solved in a forthcoming meeting in Chicago.

In conclusion, Mr. Yonadam Kanna asked to send his best regards and brotherly warm wishes to Assyrians in Russia and the countries of the CIS.
"Qala Aturaya" is sincerely grateful Rabbi Yonadam Kanna for the interview and hopes to keep in future close connections with our brothers in ADM.

Eduard Alekseevich Badalov
Qala Aturaya


There is a new radio station called Sawa (together) that plays all variety of songs established recently by U.S government to be played in Iraq. I encourage our readers to get in-touch so they can play Assyrian music & songs, because they play daily Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish, Hindi, English, and Farsi. Why not also Assyrian so we can have our friends and relatives left in Iraq to be heard. I had also sent Sawa few suggestions. Please read below. And have our Assyrian-Chaldean friends get in-touch: http://www.radiosawa.com.

Michael S. Benjamin

Surfer's Corner


The Assyrian Christian Community worldwide is opting out a worldwide appeal for assistance to the Christian Community worldwide and organization and individual committed to freedom of thought, democracy and the rule of law.

As the indigenous, original people of Iraq, the Assyrian Christians, with a worldwide population of 6 million and a population in Iraq set at 2.5 million by the previous government of Sadaam Hussein, the community is appealing for help in attaining the following, all under serious jeopardy at this time:

1. Secular Constitution - The community demands that the constitution of Iraq be secular, as under the previous administration, with a strong prohibition against any religious involvement by the government with religion, in line with the Japanese Constitution of 1947.

2. Autonomy - The community demands autonomy and local self-government in its original and historic land, as the only guarantee that as a minority, their rights, culture and religion will be preserved.

3. Intimidation - The community demands an immediate end to constant intimidation, including use of loudspeakers for the call to prayer, the banning of the veil, all of which are currently banned in other Muslim countries, including Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, etc.

4. Land - The community demands an immediate return of all lands confiscated by force by the previous regime.

5. Citizenship - The community demands an immediate restoration of citizens taken away by the previous administration to allow for participation in government.

6. Representation - The community demands immediate representation under a formula that takes into account the special rights as indigenous peoples and long years of persecution.

The Assyrian Christian Community calls on all representatives of the press to assist the community in getting a message out seeking assistance with the above, as their condition is becoming desperate with the rapid "Islamization" by force which is taking place throughout the country and, if continued, will leave the community no other choice than to immigrate en masse.

Rev. Ken Joseph, Jr.
Baghdad, Iraq
August 24, 2003



Courtesy of the United Press International (3 September)

I have been shocked at the difference between the Baghdad I found on my return and all the bad news from the city.
Despite the recent bombings, Baghdad looks dramatically different. The stores are full of supplies. The streets are crowded with people and cars. The buses are working and police are on the streets, directing traffic.

At night the streets are full of pedestrians, many families with children. I am at a loss to reconcile what we see on the ground with what is being reported.

The "regular people" are much better off than they were. Security has improved with Iraqi police everywhere, telephones are starting to work, electricity, while off and on, is relatively stable, the stores are full of food, and, little by little, people are getting jobs back.

Pensions have been paid on time. The schools are working and people for the first time have hope and a future.

When I was here before the war what was most awful for people was that they had no future -- nothing to look forward to. For us who have never experienced that situation, it is difficult to understand, but it is akin to being in prison without the possibility of parole.

They would look at me and say, "Sure we have food, a place to live, a job. But can you understand what it is to live with no tomorrow? It is like living in prison."

Now -- for the first time in 35 years -- they have a hope and a future. What most impressed me was to see Iraqis really hustling. They are thinking of starting companies and importing goods.

People, especially young people, say that for the first time in their lives they can travel overseas, surf the Internet, make international calls, and watch satellite TV. It is a wonderful time for the average Baghdadi.

What is really happening is the movement of Iraq from a "police state" to a "normal" country. During Saddam's time, life in many ways was stable, crime was low, prices were low.

But we are in a time of dramatic change. People have to learn to adjust to the "fringe benefits" of a free society. These changes include higher prices, the need to work, room for creativity, having choices, basic street crime, locking doors -- and a range of TV channels.

It is shocking for some -- especially the older people -- but the very old and the young are excited. The very old because they remember the good old days; the very young because they're excited about all the new things, such as MTV and the Internet.

Those who naysay everything are very interesting. The people are very clear on who they are -- they all were connected to Saddam. For the first time in their lives, they are going to have to work; no more handouts. The easy life is over. But the numbers are staggering. People estimate nearly 20 percent or more of the population was in some form on Saddam's gravy train, some by choice, others by force. And nearly all of the population had been getting free food, tea and sugar.

As for the crime, they emptied the prisons so nearly 50,000 hard-nosed criminals are on the streets.

Another problem is just as it was before the war -- the outsiders. I cannot understand why the United States has not done two basic things: sealing the borders and setting up a TV station.

Iraq Magnet

There is no border check so Iraq is becoming the magnet for every one that wants to get a chance to fight with Americans. This is a great puzzle to me.

What is happening, including the bombings, as far as people who I talked to are concerned, is the work of foreign nuts -- the same people who were the only ones to fight for Saddam at the later part of the war.

They are coming from all over the world like they did in Afghanistan to get a chance to fight Americans. I always remember how in Jordan everybody loved Saddam, whereas in Iraq everybody hated him.

The Iraqi people, in spite of all that is said, love the Americans. They are deeply grateful and are giving the United States the benefit of the doubt.

What has happened as far as the general population is concerned is what I term "the great letdown." People tend to make the United States Superman. They think the United States is all-powerful, the bastion of freedom, democracy, strength.

They thought that the United States would come in and with superhuman power overnight transform Baghdad into New York and Mosul into San Francisco.

It is traumatic to realize that America is not God and is very, very human. There is this gap between godlike perceptions of Americans and the realization that they have limits and cannot do everything overnight.

That is why it is critical to get basic services up -- electricity, water, and transportation.

With all due respect, people in Iraq in general hate radical Islam. They are secular. They do not want to see an Islamic state. They do not want to become like Iran.

At the same time, money and people from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other places are flooding the country using intimidation to accomplish what they cannot do by any other means. And average Iraqi is concerned at what seems to be a U.S. position, that is soft on Islam.

The problem for Christians is very different. The Americans do not appear to be requiring a secular constitution as they did in Japan or a limited regional autonomy.

This is a serious problem for us. They are already giving their blessing to the dual system so common in Muslim countries: the recent citizenship changes allow for a 2-year wait for Arabs (read Muslims) and a 9-year wait for non-Arabs.

We are beginning to feel that if the United States will not demand that the constitution be secular with a strong prohibition against religious involvement by the government and limited autonomy, then we will have to pull Assyrian Christians out of the country.

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr., an Assyrian, who initially was against the war, was so shocked at his experiences while in Iraq before the war as one of the few allowed in without government "minders," he changed his mind. Following the war, Rev. Joseph brought in the first post-war refugee truck with 20 tons of water, food, medicine and satellite telephones, and continues to assist on the ground in Iraq.

Rev. Ken Joseph, Jr.


Probably no film in history has been written about as much before its public debut as Mel Gibson's new movie about the last days of Jesus. Many of the critics and scholars who have seen it screened in advance have accused it of both antisemitism and historical ignorance — an ignorance all the more appalling in light of its pretensions to be cinema verité.

One commonly cited illustration of this is the movie's choice of Aramaic and Latin as the two languages spoken by its characters — the former by Jesus, his disciples and other Jews, and the latter by non-Jews. In fact, as has been pointed out, the language of most non-Jews in the Palestine of Jesus' time was Greek and not Latin, which would have been spoken only by Roman officials and soldiers conversing among themselves. And to Jews like Jesus, such men, too, would have spoken in Greek, since this was the lingua franca of the country.

In the early centuries C.E., Greek and Aramaic were indeed the two languages most widely spoken throughout the entire eastern Mediterranean world; Latin, though the official language of the Roman Empire, was rarely used east of Italy. It was a newcomer to the Levant, having arrived only with the Roman military occupation of the region in the first century B.C.E. Greek, on the other hand, had been around since the fourth century, when it was spread as far east as Persia and Afghanistan by Alexander the Great's conquering army, which left behind ruling elites that Hellenized vast stretches of territory — especially along the Mediterranean littoral from Syria to Egypt, where it was, by the time of Jesus, the language of the educated and urbanized classes. Aramaic — a more ancient Middle-Eastern lingua franca originally disseminated by the expansion of the Assyrian Empire hundreds of years before Alexander — remained the tongue of the uneducated, the peasantry and minority groups like the Jews that refused to be Hellenized. (Apart, that is, from the large Jewish community of Egypt, which went over to Greek entirely, perhaps because the language of the Egyptian countryside was not Aramaic but Coptic.)

And yet, even among the Jews of Palestine, who knew no Latin at all, a knowledge of Greek was widespread in Jesus' day. Anyone wishing to know just how widespread it was can do no better than to consult Saul Lieberman's classic Greek And Hellenism In Jewish Palestine, which, though published over 40 years ago, remains the definitive work on the subject.

Lieberman was by training a Talmudist, a great one, and he approached the subject by analyzing many Greek words and calque expressions found in the Hebrew and Aramaic rabbinic literature of the Hellenistic period. (A calque expression is an idiom or construction translated literally from one language into another, as when, for instance, the German Weltanschauung becomes the English "world-view.") He found an enormous amount of these, enough to convince him that even members of the rabbinical establishment, which led the opposition to Greek culture, often knew Greek well.

Lieberman didn't bother with the hundreds of well-known Greek words in Hebrew that entered it in this period, many of them still everyday Hebrew terms, such as prozdor, a corridor, from the Greek prothyron, "vestibule"; delpek, a counter, from delphikhe, "three-legged table"; sanegor, a defense counsel, from synegoros, "attorney"; kumkum, a kettle, from khoukhoumion; or apotropos, a legal guardian or court-appointed administrator, from epitropos. Rather, he concentrated on instances where a rabbinic knowledge of Greek is less obvious yet is the clue to understanding the meaning of a rabbinic text.

Here is one example. There is a Talmudic legend about a pious Jew who, hearing of a famous courtesan in Italy who charged the astronomical sum of 400 gold coins to spend a night with her, could not control his curiosity and traveled to her with the money to find out what she charged so much for. Yet his religious inhibitions got the better of him and at the crucial moment he was impotent — which made the courtesan, no less curious herself, react by saying, "By the limb of Rome [gapa shel Romi, in Hebrew], I will not let you go until you tell me what is wrong with me."

What is "the limb of Rome"? Lieberman convincingly shows that the Hebrew word gapa, "limb of," is actually a later corruption by scribes who no longer understood Greek of the Greek word agape, "love," and that in the original story, as told and understood by Jews in Palestine, the courtesan swore by "the love of Rome."

There is no evidence that Jesus himself understood Greek, and his few statements in the New Testament that purportedly appear in the language in which they were originally spoken are all in Aramaic. Still, he may have known enough Greek to use it in his contact with non-Jews, or with Roman officials like Pontius Pilate, and if he didn't, there would always have been someone available to translate. As for Latin, viewers of Mel Gibson's movie will probably hear more of it than Jesus did.

Philologos for Forward.com
29 August


Earlier this month, just as the American authorities in Iraq were finally releasing photographs of 30 major treasures missing from Iraq’s National Museum, a different controversy erupted in New York over the looted history of the Middle East. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a major exhibit, Art of the First Cities, containing artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia. Many had a shadowy provenance and had probably been looted years before. With the thefts in Iraq still fresh in everyone’s mind, questions naturally arose: Didn’t handsome museum displays of such artifacts encourage plundering? Weren’t such exhibits ultimately immoral?

Western curators have long justified their holdings ­ Nineveh’s winged bulls, Babylon’s Gate of Ishtar, the Parthenon marbles, etc. ­ on such grounds as superior preservation and security. But listen to this defense offered by David Owen, an archaeologist who oversees a large Mesopotamian collection at Cornell University: “The fault (of looting) is not ours,” Owen recently told a New York newspaper; “These (Middle Eastern) countries are in their infancy when it comes to teaching people to respect their past.”

That’s a large accusation. It implies that the value of “the past” is a known and agreed-upon constant, and that Middle Easterners have been ignorant of it. In fact, the peoples of the Middle East have always protected the past that they deemed important, though it is also true that the region has not always agreed with the West on which aspects of antiquity deserved respect. But then, the West has repeatedly changed its own views on precisely the same issue.
For centuries, it is true, the artifacts of Middle Eastern antiquity had minimal value to the people who lived among them. Large pieces might be re-used for building; small items for decoration, but these materials were seldom associated with the concept of “history.” Thus, the bricks of Babylon were gradually carried away, statuary and reliefs were destroyed upon discovery, and ancient tells were ignored.

On the other hand, such sites as Nebi Yunis, which were believed to have Koranic associations, were jealously protected from excavation (and often remain so). That is of course an issue of sacred Islamic history, though Islam has not been the only factor at work. Western scholars of the 19th century were as shocked to learn that the region’s Christian monasteries were burning their ancient manuscripts ­ to gain shelf space ­ as they were to learn that magnificent Assyrian artworks had been intentionally smashed.

“The past” has long been expansively defined in the West, but many of the same issues of “respect” have arisen. The Catholic Church used ancient, pagan Rome as a quarry until it lost temporal power in the 1870s. A mountain of statuary was burned for lime and everything not associated with the Christianizing Emperor Constantine was in jeopardy. Italy’s Fascists, on the other hand, valued ancient Rome for its imperial past, but sought to destroy the city’s medieval and Renaissance remains because, in Mussolini’s words, they were so much “picturesque filth.”

Britons, in the meantime, had been dismantling Hadrian’s Wall to build their barns, while Americans plowed through the ancient mounds of the prairies, and left trinket hunters to destroy the remains of the cliff-dwelling Anasazi Indians. The destruction and looting of the unvalued past is a long, unhappy tale.

Until fairly recently, the West had no respect for the Middle East’s past, either, and was interested less in history than in museum pieces. Indeed, evidence of Iraq’s ancient history was often destroyed in the frenzied search for big statues, many of which went to adorn private homes. So, too, in Egypt, where Westerners once explored the Great Pyramid using dynamite, and established a consumer market in mummies. So, too, throughout the region. Westerners did show a historical interest in Biblical sites, but, like Iraq’s Nebi Yunis, that was a matter of sacred history.

In fact, antiquity has been increasingly celebrated in the modern Middle East, though often for political reasons. Different politics, to paraphrase historian Bernard Lewis, require different pasts. Witness the Baathist reconstruction of Babylon, the various nationalist exploitations of Egypt’s pharaohs, Lebanon’s Phoenicians, Syria’s Aramaeans and Jordan’s Nabateans. Nor is politicized history unknown in the West, where the issue involves cultural power, so that “mainstream” history has been under sustained assault from numerous aggrieved groups.

It is obviously sensible to encourage people to “respect their past.” But we can’t reach a consensus on its value before we decide on what that past is.

Charles Paul Freund
The Daily Star
22 August

[Z-Info: Charles Paul Freund is a senior editor at Reason magazine and writes a regular commentary for the Daily Star.]



I was born in 1981 in Baghdad, Iraq. I Came to America in 1989. I have 2 younger sisters.

I've been involved in the fine arts at an early age. All throughout high school, my artistic skill started to develop into something more personal. After leaving high school I attended Oakton Community College and then later Loyola University Chicago. I Graduated from Loyola in summer of 2003 with a Bachelors in General and Integrative Studies (BGIS) with a concentration in the fine arts.

My drawings and paintings involve Assyria in a social, religious and political point of view. I create artwork that covers all three areas. These motives are driven by everyday experiences.

Ideas that don’t provoke society have little or no need for a presence within the artistic intellect. You come closer to ideas that spark the intellect.


[Z-info: Visit Rabel’s Art at http://www.rabelsart.com/gallery.html. ]

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