21 Tishrin II 6757
Volume XIII

Issue 17

12 November 2007

1- 8 6 6 - M Y  Z I N D A

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A Giant of Modern Arabic Poetry
An Accomplished Translator


SARGON BOLOUS Has Forever Left Us

"Craving the Glimpse of That Old Glory"

Click on Blue Links in the left column to jump to that section within this issue.  Most blue links are hyperlinked to other sections or URLs.
Zinda SayZinda Says
  Tribute to Sargon Boulus Stan Shabaz
  Barbaric Attacks on the Assyrian and Mesopotamian History Fred Aprim
  Mosul Dam at Risk of Collapse
Assyrian Students & Youth Hold Sixth Conference in Dohuk
Maliki Pledges to Protect Christian Minority from Violence
Chaldean Patriarch on Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon
  Assyrian-Iraqi Poet, Sargon Boulus, Dies in Berlin
Assyrian & Kurdish Residents of Malkieh Reconcile over Death of Kurdish Youth
Assyrian Church Wins Two-Year Court Battle
Full Text of the Statement Issued by Bishop Mar Bawai Soro
Barnabas Fund Launches Campaign for Iraq's Christians
1915 Genocide Monument Erected in Wales
Kayseri Constructs World’s Largest Cuneiform Monument
Chaldean Store Owners Boycott Miller Brewing Company
Chaldean Store Owners Arrested in Pop Can Smuggling Ring
Mary Pera Eshoo (1916-2007)
  Iraq and the War
A Tribute to an Othuroyo: Malfono Hanna Geliyo
On Dr. Osipov's Article
America Welcomes Sabri Atman
Jealousy and Envy
HUSS Reunion and its “Heroes of our Time”
Father & Sons Help Purchase a Youth & Women's Ctr in Alqosh

Click to Learn More :

  The Whistler Obelit Yadgar
  ACSSU’s Elections and the Third Annual Meet and Greet
Sabri Atman in Detroit
ARAM Conference in London in Sept 2008
University of Chicago Oriental Institute Lecture
Assyrian Star Drama Presents "Arbaa Qreeteh"
Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press
  Assyrian References in Modern Near Eastern Literature
Bush: The Destroyer of Christians
The Assyrian Community of Verin Dvin
The Three Essential Issues Facing the Assyrians of Armenia
Bible Revisited - Part 1 of 2
Stan Shabaz
Frank Schaeffer
Hasmik Hovhannisyan
Hasmik Hovhannisyan
Ann-Margret “Maggie” Yonan
  Journey of a Letter for Tomorrow Onur Burçak Belli

Since Our Last Issue
A Chronology of Important Events

Saturday, 13 October Suryoyo TV begins broadcasting to the Americas on Galaxy 25 Satellite at 97 degrees west; Frequency of 11740 mhz; Vertical polarization; Symbol Rate of 22.000; and FEC of 1/2.
Sunday, 14 October Belgium police storm St. John the Baptist parish of the Syriac Orthodox Church, when the supporters of the ex-communicated member of the church, Mr. Ibrahim Erkan, began clashing with the followers of Bishop Mor Severios Hazali Soumi, the SOC Bishop of Belgium.
Monday, 15 October The Sixth Conference of the Union of the Chaldo-Assyrian Students and Youth concludes its two-day meeting in Dohuk, Iraq.
Sunday, 21 October Mar Emmanuel Delly, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, conducts a Mass at St. Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Beirut, Lebanon and appeals to the Lebanese authority to assist the Iraqi Christian refugees in Lebanon.
Monday, 22 October Assyrian poet, Sargon Boulus, dies in Berlin at the age of 63.
Wednesday, 24 October Armenian and Assyrian organizations in the UK meet in the House of Commons , following the visit by the Turkish Prime Minister.  Over 200 British MPs recognize the Assyrian-Armenian-Greek Genocide of 1915.
Thursday, 25 October In a summary judgment, a Santa Clara judge orders Mar Bawai Soro, a former bishop of the Assyrian Church of the East, to turn over all church properties to the Assyrian Church of the East.
Friday, 26 October Miller Brewing Company apologizes for the appearance of its logo at a Sept 30th' Street Fair in San Francisco.  The Chaldean-owned businesses, under the direction of Chaldean Bishop, Mar Ibrahim Ibrahim, had boycotted all Miller Brewing Company products from their stores.
Saturday, 27 October Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki pledges to Mar Delly to protect and support the Iraqi Christians.
Sunday, 28 October A resolution is adopted at the XIth international Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to recommend Aramaic as a World Heritage Language.
Tuesday, 30 October

United States warns again that the Mosul Dam built in 1983 is at the risk of collapse and if so, it will cause a devastating flood along River Tigris in through Baghdad. 

The website of the Assyrian Academic Society is hacked by an alleged Turkish individual or group calling itself Krutre.

Wednesday, 31 October

Mar Dinkha IV, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, issues a statement asking the members of his church to "forget the past" and the dissenters to return to the Church.

Dutch government's Commission on Foreign Affairs holds a hearing to address the condition of the Assyrians.  Organized by Ms. Attiya Gamri Tunc, a member of the Provincial Parliament of Overijssel for the Labor Party (PvdA) in the Netherlands, the Commission addressed the Nineveh Plain Solution and other pressing issues.

Thursday, 1 November The U.K.-based Barnabas Fund launches an advocacy campaign for the Christians in Iraq.
Friday, 2 November

Thousands of Assyrians and Kurds meet in Malkieh, Syria to reconcile over the death of a Kurdish youth killed in April 2007.

Copies of the Turkish translation of Prof. David Gaunt's book "Massacres, Resistance, Protectors" are presented at the Istanbul Book Fair.  The book is titled: "Katliamlar, Direnis, Koruyucular: Dunya Savasinda Dogu Anadolu'da Musluman-Hiristiyan Iliskileri".

Sunday, 3 November

Bishop Mar Bawai Soro of the Church of the East releases a statement in which he affirms his commitment to "restoring unity among all branches of the Church of the East... and re-establishing communion with other Christians".  Mar Bawai notes that he has no intention of appealing court's decision delivered on 25 October.

A monument to commemorate the Assyrian-Armenian-Greek Genocide of 1915 is unveiled in Cardiff, England.

The city of Kaysari in Turkey erects a status of an Assyrian cuneiform tablet - the largest of its kind.

Tuesday, 6  November

The king of Saudi Arabia meets with Pope Benedict XVI — the first ever between a pontiff an a reigning Saudi monarch — amid Vatican concerns about restrictions on Christian worship in the Muslim kingdom.

Steve Caruso of Rutgers University introduced the Aramaic Sudoku.

Wednesday, 7 November

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces Iran has achieved a landmark, with 3,000 centrifuges fully working in its controversial uranium enrichment program.

Assyrian Democratic Movement in UK announces that Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the ADM and member of the Iraqi Parliament will be visiting London on 14 November at the Assyrian House.

Thursday, 8 November U.S. defense officials signal that up-to-date attack plans on Iran are available if needed in the escalating crisis over that country's nuclear aims.
Friday, 9 November The Assyria Foundation, based in the Netherlands, hires Mr. Ninos Warda as a lobbyist to work on the Assyrian issues in Brussels.

Zinda Says
An Editorial by Wilfred Bet-Alkhas


Tribute to Sargon Boulus

Stan Shabaz
Washington, DC

                                                     “He who migrated, never found the promised land.” [1]

Sargon Boulus (1944-2007)

It seems that lately the Mashriq has been losing some its greatest Arabic-language writers and intellectuals.  For example, just within the last few years we have witnessed the passing Nazik al-Mala'ika [2], Muhammad al-Maghut [3], Abdul Rahman Munif [4], Hisham Sharabi [5], Mai Ghoussoub [6], Ulfat Idlibi [7], Jan Dammou [8], Jalil al-Qaissi [9] and Edward Said [10], among others. And on October 22, we saw the passing of a name known to Assyrians the world over: Sargon Boulus. Sargon Boulus (Poulus) was a writer of great depth and talent. His name belongs in the above list, for he was very active and respected in the Arabic-language literary milieu. Not that he sought to distance himself from his Assyrian identity. On the contrary, Sargon was very proud of his Assyrian heritage and would often write about his fond memories of his childhood days in Habbaniya. He had a great respect for his ancient Assyrian ancestors and he always felt a close bond with his Assyrian family, colleagues and friends. Yet he also felt a profound attachment to the broader cultural, literary and artistic life of the entire Near East; an attachment to the whole Fertile Crescent region and the broader Arab World, in which he established a prominent and respected name for himself.

Sargon was born in al-Habbaniya in 1944. He had the following to say about his childhood days there:

Well, I was born in this small town of al-Habbaniya. It was all water – an artificial lake, built by the English I think – and I was born very close to the water. I think water is an important symbol to me even today and so I use it a lot. One of my first memories: I was sitting with my mother close to the water, where we had this kind of shack, small house, on the lake and we were just watching for hours and listening to the water and a sunset which still lingers in my mind, even the light, the shape of it, the form and the hues.

It is these small subtle details that can drive you along the path of your life, the rest of your life. Habbaniya was a small town and most of the Assyrians happened to live there because they were brought by the English. This is really important history for me because somehow I am involved with it, my bringing up and all that. In the twenties, I think, after the Assyrians were massacred in the north and the English took them over and put them under their protection, they moved from Henadi, which was a British air base, and brought to Habbaniya which became a military camp, a famous camp.

My father used to work for the English and one of my first and very cherished memories is when as a kid my father used to take me to the place of his work, which was a camp where only the English lived with the Iraqi workers (mostly Assyrian). We used to see these English ladies in summertime among their flowers and lawns, a totally different women from the women that I knew like my mother, my sisters and the other women in my family. Here was another type of image of humanity, let's say, and I was like sneaking a view through the trees, from far away into these gardens. For me, I think now, that's a vision of paradise, paradise meaning something very flowery, full of colour. I've even written about this somewhere, some lines in a poem. Of course I wasn’t aware at the time that they were occupying the country, I was too young. [11]

In 1956, his family moved to Kirkuk where he began his literary work as a poet and translator of English language literature. He describes his early years there as follows:

I started writing when I was 12: I published my first poem when I was 13 or 14 and since then I haven't stopped. It just grabbed me, this magic of words, of music. In the beginning I wrote so furiously […] So it was some kind of thing to do with destiny.
Yes, I believe in that--in a poet's case it is always true; that that magic, once it strikes you, you can never live without it. You always go back to that source to find out - how did this happen? Why did this thing happen to me? Why was I chosen, in fact, to see the world in this way, through words?

It’s like a magical drug of spirit and words. Arabic language really has that magic and once it reveals itself to you, you are trapped. That’s why in Arabic they say “Adracat’hu hirfatu al-adab”, meaning “the profession of words has struck, he’s cursed”. At the same time I consider it a blessing as well as a curse, because today, if you ask me, I would say I want to do exactly as I have done. I want it all over again. I think that in poetry I have found something besides just pain and just nibbling at the bones of history.

Arab history, Assyrian history, Armenian history, all the peoples, all their languages poured into the Arabic language. The Arabic language is probably 70 per cent Syriac, Aramaic, even Sanskrit, and other languages, so there is no pure language in this sense. [12]

He contributed his writings to the influential Shi’r [13] magazine of Adunis and Yusuf al-Khal. Sargon describes his early contact with al-Khal as follows:

When I was in Kirkuk in 1961, I sent poems to Yousef Al-Khal, 16 poems, which were published, opening the magazine, and I was hailed in Al Nahar newspaper as a new discovery, a young poet - which was true, I was very young. And so Yousef Al-Khal and me started a correspondence and that is the start of my relationship with the magazine. [14]

In 1967 he arrived in Beirut where he worked with al-Nahar newspaper and Shi’r magazine. During these years he worked closely with the literary giants of the city such as Adunis, Yusuf al-Khal and Ghada Samman to name just a few. In 1969 he left for the United States. Sargon explains how he was able to obtain entry into the United States in the following story:

Yousif Al-Khal helped me a lot. We went to the American Embassy and he told them about this young man who had translated two anthologies of American poetry in Shi’r magazine and introduced the beat generation of poets to Arab readers. He told the American Ambassador: “All you have to do is talk to this young man, just talk to him!”

So the Ambassador asked me about American literature. I started with Walt Whitman, and then came to the new names which the Ambassador had never heard of and probably will never hear of, and he said: “Enough! You got it.” So they gave me a paper, although I still had no passport.

That is how I got to New York. [15]

Once in America, he took Etel Adnan up on her invitation to visit her in San Rafael. Once there he fell in love with San Francisco. He described San Francisco as follows:

San Francisco is the centre of creativity in America, the centre of America. There is East Coast, New York, the publishing world, the business of literature and there is the West Coast, which is San Francisco and that is where all the new movements emerge from, always, even today, so there was the so-called San Francisco Renaissance, a tremendous movement with Kenneth Rexroth, whom I met, as master of ceremonies. Through him all the great poets of the beat generation came out, like Gary Snyder, and then Ginsberg, Kerouac, then Gregory Corso, Bob Kaufman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. […]

So San Francisco is the place of awareness because writers there are the most open. They are not like the New Yorker writer and poet, the sophisticated Europeanised type, the New Yorker. No, they are cosmopolitan. San Francisco is the city that is actually made up of all the cities in the world: You have Paris, you have London, you have Rome, and you have Berlin, in this city you have China. It is international and culture is absolutely open. I think for an artist, especially a poet, that is the city. I mean, I spent a quarter of a century, more, in San Francisco, never getting bored one minute – the readings, the fantastic trips, especially in the seventies and the eighties. It was the time for me, that is the thing that I treasure, the adventures, the open spirit, and then Berkeley which in the late sixties was THE place for revolution, for stopping the war in Vietnam. The first night I arrived in Berkeley, I saw a procession of students with candles singing against the war, to stop the war in Vietnam and what they were reading but the poems of Ho Chi Min, which I had just translated into Arabic and published in Dar Al-Nahar in Beirut. Prison Diary (Youmiat fi Sijin), it was my first book. [16]

During this period Sargon was very active in his poetic writings. He also translated much English language literature into Arabic including the sonnets of Shakespeare as well as the works of Ezra Pound, Auden, Shelley, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, Pablo Neruda and Rainer Maria Rilke.

In 1981, Sargon, along with Kamal Boullata, edited “Fayrouz: Legend and Legacy”, a beautiful book of tribute in commemoration of Fayrouz’s North American concert tour. For the book Sargon wrote a moving essay, “Origins of a Legend” detailing the life of Fayrouz [17] and the beauty and uniqueness of her great talent. The tour was sponsored by the San Francisco based Forum for International Art and Culture, which was established in 1971 by Violette Yacoub. Sargon worked closely with this Forum in pursuit of its goal of fostering an appreciation and understanding of international culture. The Forum also sponsored the publication of “Tigris” magazine, of which Sargon was editor. It was an independent journal of literature and the graphic arts. The journal would include works by many of Sargon’s friends and colleagues including Mouayad al-Rawi, Yusuf al-Khal, Etel Adnan, Fouad Rifkah and many others.

Later Sargon became a consulting editor and frequent contributor to the influential magazine of modern Arabic literature, Banipal. [18] In a fascinating interview in the inaugural issue of Banipal he talked about his Assyrian heritage:

Is there any influence in my work from my Assyrian background? Well, as a child I was writing in Arabic, although I have written certain things in Assyrian. But I soon realized that Assyrian is a very limited language in the sense of an audience. First of all, throughout the whole Middle East where Assyrians exist their language is suppressed - they don't have schools, they don't have magazines, they don't have books, but almost secret societies. The first school I went to was in a church in Al-Habbaniya where the priest used to teach us and I read Assyrian. It's a beautiful language, it's a great language and sometimes I feel like writing a fantastic elegy for the Assyrian language, how it's dying and I'm seeing its death.

But then I realized, when I was struck by the Arabic language, when the gift came to me, that all languages are really one. I mean, Arabic is almost like Assyrian to me, that's strange, but it's really true. For me the sound of Arabic is like some kind of cover for what's beneath it - meaning all these ancient languages never really die. They are there. This might sound like an illusion but they are there, they are steamed up into Arabic and they are right there.

Of course, throughout the years I went and studied these things, I studied Turath, which is the classics of Arabic language. I found out that some of the greatest Arab poets were in fact Assyrians. They changed their names, they're all in history. Emr Al-Quais was Assyrian and Nabi Al Dhubiani, who was the poet of the kings, of the palace, was actually Assyrian. He was Monovesian, a kind of Christian at that time. Now who could be Christian in Iraq and not be Assyrian - either Assyrian, or Syriac or Chaldean, Assyrians considered all these people one. Then, Abu Tammam was Christian - he changed his name. Ibn Al-Abri, a great historian, is Ben Khafri in Assyrian, so he's Assyrian. I can tell you hundreds of names like that. Ibn Ar-Ruhmi, he was in fact Greek and Christian. These things are facts in Arabic literature. So, the way I see it is that there is no such thing as pure Arabic literature. It all is from here and there, especially from Iraq and Syria where the tremendous movements of classic poetry took place, the revolutions of Abu Tammam in Syria and Al Muttanebi in Iraq, these movements just dragged with them all the past of mixed origins, mixed languages, mixed knowledge, mixed terminology - and this past is all there in the poetry and the prose. [19]
A few years ago, the Assyrian writer Samuel Shimon dedicated these lines to his friend and colleague Sargon Boulus:

My native land?
The last book I’d think of reading [20]

What are these cryptic words meant to imply? I think they reveal a sense of alienation, frustration and loneliness felt by so many Near Eastern artists and intellectuals. It is why many of the great intellectuals mentioned at the start of this essay lived their lives in exile, so far away from their ancestral homeland and society. Yet their homeland, society and culture dominated their lives, their thoughts and their works. They carried their homeland with them in their very souls and it was central to everything they did.

Sargon Boulus is emblematic of this predicament: the artist in exile, an all too common phenomenon for us, unfortunately. But was it just a political exile? No upon further reflection, I think it was just as much a societal exile, if not more so. Sargon felt a frustration with society, which he described as follows:

It's long work, always thankless. After a while, after writing for 30 years, you feel a little bit of frustration because here is a whole world where idiots are taking over things and some rich sheikh or someone, with billions of dollars and oil can live such a fabulous life, and own all the papers and magazines and here is a poet sweating and laboring to advance the language. You know what that means, I think that is one of the most honorable missions in life, and they're totally neglected, so sometimes a poet, if he gives up, he is really justified. But then you try to fight against despair.

Sometimes I find oases like this sweet small German village or anywhere else in fact, just to pursue these fascinating, complex ideas of mine. [21]

I think he was frustrated by what he saw as an entrenched formulaic societal conservatism that tends to value conformity over originality. A type of fossilized traditionalism and social authoritarianism which discourages creativity, innovation, and independence of thought and action: a mentality that time and again values the “rich sheikh” over the “sweating poet”. 
Of course, given the precariousness, complexity and unpredictability of life in the region, this societal conservatism is somewhat understandable. Yet it should also be understood that there will always be creative people of talent, ambition and drive who refuse to be bound by the societal limitations and expectations imposed upon them; any more than they would accept to be bound by the political restrictions imposed on them from above. And while bucking political oppression is usually applauded, bucking societal expectations is much less appreciated. Yet the creative soul is always the strongest and will always find a way to express its uniqueness. Sargon Boulus was one of these unique creative souls; a free spirit that our nation has produced and whom we should take great pride in. We should all take a moment to remember him, reflect upon his great works, and honour his amazing life.


  1. Sargon Boulus, “Who Knows the Story”.
  2. Nazik al-Mala’ika (1923-2007). The Cultural Office of the Iraqi Embassy recently hosted a commemoration for her in which Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie and Cultural Attaché Abdul Hadi al Khalili spoke of her importance to modern Arabic literature. It was hoped that Sargon Boulus would be able to attend, but unfortunately he was ill in Germany at the time.
  3. Muhammad al-Maghut (1934-2006) Born in Salamiya, Syria.
  4. Abdul Rahman Munif (1933-2004) Born in Amman.
  5. Hisham Sharabi (1927-2005) Born in Jaffa. His important autobiographical essay “al-Jamr wa al-Ramad: Dhikrayat Muthaqqaf Arabi” (Embers and Ashes: The Memoirs of an Arab Intellectual) is scheduled to be re-released in an English language translation this month.
  6. Mai Ghoussoub (1952-2007) Born in Beirut. Publisher, artist and author; founder of Saqi Publishing House in London.
  7. Ulfat Idlibi (1912-2007) Born in Damascus.
  8. Jan Dammou died 2003. Born in Kirkuk.
  9. Jalil al-Qaissi (1937-2006) born in Kirkuk.
  10. Edward Said (1935-2003) Born in Jerusalem.
  11. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998
  12. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998
  13. Shi’r magazine was founded in 1957. The Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef wrote that “Shi’r magazine, with Yusuf al-Khal heading it, played a great modernizing role in Arabic poetry and was an avant-garde magazine in the full sense of avant-garde.”  Banipal no 28, Spring 2007. pg. 38
  14. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998
  15. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998
  16. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998
  17. Fayrouz was born Nouhad Haddad. Her father, Wadi’ Haddad was originally from Mardin.
  18. Banipal is an important UK-based journal of Arabic literature. The journal describes its choice of name as follows: “Banipal takes its name from Ashurbanipal, last great king of Assyria and patron of the arts, whose outstanding achievement was to assemble in Nineveh, from all over his empire, the first systematically organized library in the ancient Middle East. The thousands of clay tablets of Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian writings included the famous Mesopotamian epics of the Creation, the Flood, and Gilgamesh, many folk tales, fables, proverbs, prayers and omen texts.”
  19. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998
  20. Samuel Shimon, “To Sargon Boulus”, Banipal, no. 15/16, Autumn 2002/Spring 2003, pg. 17.
  21. Banipal, no. 1, February, 1998

In Arabic the letter "P" is pronounced as "B", hence the Assyrian last name "Poulus" for Paul is read as "Boulus".

The Lighthouse
Feature Article


Barbaric Attacks on the Assyrian and Mesopotamian History

Fred Aprim

With the support of the United States, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was established in northern Iraq in 1992. Subsequently, efforts ensued to construct the foundation for what could become a new Kurdish nation state. There are those, however, who are convinced that the US at this time at least is unlikely to sponsor a Kurdish state within Iraq that could boost similar aspirations by Kurds in Turkey. Thus Kurds in Iraq could expect some degree of autonomy from the Iraqi Central Government sufficient enough to enable the US to maintain a strategic presence in northern Iraq, watch over Iran and keep Turkey happy at the same time.

At any rate, this new Kurdish nation-state envisioned by the Kurdish leaders in Iraq needed a foundation to be built upon and one pillar to support such foundation is history. The construction of this history was necessary since the Kurds have a relatively brief history in Iraq (Mesopotamia) compared to that of the Assyrians. With a healthy treasury and a strong continuous aid from the US and other European countries, the KRG has allocated millions of dollars on rewriting the Kurdish history. It has contacted and paid politicians and historians around the world for this purpose.  Luckily for the Kurds, the fabrication of their history began when there were no experts on Kurdish history, thus their claims set no boundaries.

The KRG did not only rely on the paid Kurdish and non-Kurdish writers, it went further by learning from Saddam Hussein's policies. KRG officials are never shy from making unfounded and outrageous historic claims as they see them fit and then allow those paid writers to justify such claims. If we look at Saddam Hussein's claims, we would see that he first claimed that he was a descendent of Mohammad.  Then he turned around and claimed that King Nabuchednassar of Babylon was his ancestor. Kurdish officials have learned from such chauvinistic and brutal dictatorship as they too with insolence and sauciness claim that they are the descendents of the Medes, Hittites and other Indo-European races and then turn around and claim that the Sumerian, Akkadian and Assyrian kings were Kurdistanis as well. One does not understand, are the Kurds Indo-Europeans or Semites, because one could not be both. I guess some Kurdish writers and politicians think that the Kurds are unique like no other people on earth as one half of the Kurdish body is Indo-European, while the other half is Semitic.

The rewriting of the Kurdish history requires much manipulation, appropriation, imagination and great disguise. The examples of the barbaric attack on the history of Assyria and Mesopotamia by certain paid Kurdish writers and officials are plentiful. The Kurdish assault on Mesopotamian history is turning to become a major offensive as more and more appalling claims by those arrogant Kurdish writers and politicians turn on various sites or media outlets.

Allow me to list the following examples: 

Dr. Farsat Mur'ai

Dr. Farsat Mur'ai, a Kurd, is the Head of the Kurdish Central Studies in the University of Dohuk, northern Iraq. The corruption of history by Dr. Farsat would make world's theologians and historians scratch their heads.  Let me just point to one of the most outrageous claims made recently by this so-called history teacher. Dr. Farsat claims that the early fathers of Syriac literature and theology Mar Aprim the great, Mar Narsai and Bardisan were Kurdish Christians. There is not much that a person can say about such an outlandish claim.

On May 18, 2006, the al-Jazeera.net published an article by Dr. Farsat Mur'ai titled "The Historic Role of Kurds."

In his article, Dr. Farsat speaks about the role of the Kurds in world's history and claims that the Kurds had a rather important role, because the world's first civilizations appeared on Kurdish lands. He adds that the ancient people of Iraq, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Assyrians were considered to be the second wave of mankind that spread after the resting of Utnapishtim's (Noah) Ark on one of the Kurdish mountains. He claims that this is recorded in the Akkadian and Assyrian ancient texts. Dr. Farsat continues later to claim that the third millennia B.C. historic records have saved the names of many gods that were worshipped by the people of northern Mesopotamia, the ancient people of Kurdistan, in addition to few myths or epics that had great influence on the development of civic awareness and mental structure for those nations and the surrounding nations as they began to have common feelings that framed civic, economic and political relationships. Dr. Farsat continues on and claims that other gods made the doctrine of the people of northern and eastern Mesopotamia or Subartu. These gods that originated from the Hindu-Aryan mythology, he claims, left their homes of southern Russia in the beginning of the second millennia B.C. and headed towards India, Iran, Anatolia and Subartu (Kurdistan).

I just wonder, where did Dr. Farsat see those claimed Assyrian and Akkadian ancient texts that refer to that certain Kurdish mountain? Did he see those texts in his dreams? The rest of the gibberish that he claims is nothing but a figment of his imagination and he is brilliant at mixing up Mesopotamia, Subartu and the illusive Kurdistan to confuse the simple readers.

Fadhil Mirani

During the early 1990s, Fadhil Mirani, Political Bureau Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barazani, head of the Kurdish front in Dohuk at the time, repeatedly used racist methods to divide the Assyrians with methods similar to those of Saddam's Ba'ath regime. Foremost among their tactics were financing divisionists in northern Iraq to undermine the Assyrian history and making the Assyrians known as a group of separate religious denominations rather than a distinct ethnic group, thus questioning the historic rights of Assyrians in northern Iraq and rejecting the Assyrian rooted history in the region.

Mulla Bakhtiyar

On October 22, 2007, al-Malaf Press posted an interview with Mulla Bakhtiyar, In Charge of Foreign Relations Bureau in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party under Jalal Talabani.

Mr. Bakhtiyar stated that there were investigations and international historic studies during the previous League of Nations regarding Kirkuk, Sulaimaniya, Dohuk, Arbil and Mosul that prove that those regions are Kurdistani regions and that those regions were/are inhabited by the indigenous Kurdish people. Mr. Bakhtiyar answered a question regarding the rights of the Turkoman for example to establish a region for themselves in northern Iraq and he stated: "…It is known that nations (peoples) have the legal right to establish their own states or regions if they had historic and geographical lands; however, the Turkomen and ChaldoAshur [referring to Assyrians] are residing in Kurdistan and they have full citizenship rights in it, but they, i.e., Turkomen and Assyrians, do not own/have any Turkomeni or ChaldoAshuri [Assyrian] lands in Kurdistan and/or in Iraq."

This writer published a detailed article about Mr. Bakhtiyar's statement as a guest editorial for AINA.
Mr. Bakhtiyar must be blind since he fails to recognize all the Assyrian archaeological findings in northern Iraq and in world's museums, when we know for a fact that there is not a single ancient Kurdish monument, stele, artifact, tablet, etc., about people known as Kurds in northern Iraq.

Mahrdad Izady

The writings of Kurdish writer Mehrdad R. Izady regarding the claimed Kurdish essence of northern Iraq have influenced many, including David Axe and Dr. Victor Sharpe M.D., who repeat the history fabrications of Izady. For example, on July 30, 2007, Victor Sharpe, a medical doctor, posted an article on the web site of Israel Hasbara Committee where he copied the claims of Izady that the royal house of Adiabene was Kurdish.

This writer published a detailed response to Dr. Sharpe's statement as a guest editorial for AINA. Did Dr. Sharpe M.D. study reliable history accounts, including those of 1st Century renowned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who asserts that Adiabene (Arbella or Arbil) was Assyrian and the Adiabeni people were Assyrians? (See Whinston, William. Translator. The Works of Josephus. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Inc. 1999.) I will leave this to the Jewish scholars to figure out. Because, if we assume that the accounts of the 1st Century father of Jewish history Josephus are false and those of Izady and Dr. Sharpe M.D. are correct, then the Jewish scholars have a lot of explaining to do and they have much to lose on an academic level. This would put a big question mark on other accounts by the famous 1st Century Jewish historian Josephus, if one assumes that he was wrong about Adiabene and Izady and Dr. Sharpe M.D. are correct.

Changing Educational Material

The KRG intimidates Assyrian individuals or groups that do not agree with its policies in northern Iraq. The Assyrians must accept any preconditions set by the KRG if any benefits are to be granted. For example, the Sixth Grade Geography Curriculum book taught in Syriac Schools in northern Iraq forces the Assyrians to print that Simko the warlord who murdered the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Benyamin Shimun in 1918 was a national hero. As we know, Simko invited the Assyrian patriarch to his home to negotiate peace terms. However, after the negotiations were completed and Simko accompanied the patriarch outside and as the patriarch was attempting to ride his carriage, Simko went inside immediately and his men began to open fire and shot the patriarch in the back. Is that the act of a national hero or a coward? If the Assyrians refuse to print this in the book, the Kurdish authorities would not approve the curriculum and perhaps close the schools. The policy of the KRG is no different than that of Saddam Hussein, who was involved in the policy of forced Arabization and indoctrination of the non-Arab people in Iraq. Today, the KRG is involved in the policy of forced Kurdification and indoctrination of the non-Kurdish people in northern Iraq.

Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani

Jalal Talabani, the Head of the PUK and the current Iraqi president, had declared earlier that he is not aware of the presence of Assyrians in Iraq. In the hallways and corridors of the Iraqi cabinet, Kurdish officials in the Iraqi Central government continue to spread the poison that Assyrians have no lands in Iraq, thus the Iraqi Assyrian Christians are simply outsiders residing in the country.

* * *

I am bringing up these examples for two main purposes: First, it is to refute certain claims (including those of certain Assyrian groups or individuals working for the KRG currently) that claim that the undermining of Assyrian history and rewriting that of the region are not a collective policy of the KRG and Kurdish leadership. These few claim that such actions are of individual nature, but as we see from the above few examples that that is not the case and that politicians and officials of the KRG are in the center of this campaign. The second purpose is to bring attention to what is going on in northern Iraq as Kurdish politicians, officials, and writers construct their new history. They do this via a meticulous campaign that includes indoctrination, deceit, falsification and corruption of history to achieve two main goals: The first is to make everyone digest the myth of the rooted Kurdishness of northern Iraq. The second is to make everyone accept that they are Kurdistanis living on the supposedly historic Kurdish lands.

Most of the articles on Kurdish history written by Kurdish writers are in essence a collection of historical events, but those events are restructured and represented in a way that suit the Kurdish agenda in rewriting the history of northern Iraq (Assyria). Kurdish writers and officials conveniently insert the name Kurds and Kurdistan wherever and whenever necessary and with that they create a new version of Mesopotamian history, Kurdish style. One could recommend these claims to be read as a comic tale, but it is not funny either. The KRG might pay certain media groups to promote this corrupted version of history, but the KRG and those paid writers would never be able to ignore the thousands of steles, monuments, artifacts, tablets, ancient cuneiform and old Syriac texts and a wealth of history documents that prove the Assyrian essence of northern Iraq. They could not ignore tons of archaeological evidence that fill the world's museums or those pieces of history that continue to be excavated in northern Iraq, that prove beyond any reasonable doubt the strictly Assyrian origin of the region.  

Let me be clear that the Kurdish people deserve attention and have the right for self-determination, but this attention and/or special treatment that they are receiving must not be granted at the expense of the demise of the indigenous ethnic people of the region, namely the Assyrians, or other ancient religious minorities such as the Yezidis. 

It is unfortunate that certain non-Kurdish writers and self-proclaimed historians blindly copycat corrupted versions of history of Mesopotamia and Assyria written by certain Kurdish writers and nationalists. They do this without serious efforts to investigate such claims made by Kurdish nationalists and writers that are constructing a new history for northern Iraq (Assyria), Assyrians and for the Kurdish people. We must encourage genuine Kurdish scholars to step up to the plate and challenge these revisionists. We encourage them to write the history of Kurds in Iraq, a genuine history narrative that is, which would be respected by academia and not allow politicians and blind nationalists to write a history that is the laughing stock of the world historic and archaeological societies.

Unfortunately, the methodical campaign of denying, corrupting and usurping the history of northern Iraq and Assyrians goes on today in the supposedly new, free and democratic Iraq. What is most unfortunate is that certain Kurdish officials and writers continue to do this while many Assyrians are busy with controversies and internal conflicts created by their churches. These churches are vulnerable and their leaders have been and continue to be influenced by certain governments in the Middle East and most recently by the empowered KRG.

Good Morning Assyria
News From the Homeland


Mosul Dam at Risk of Collapse

Courtesy of BBC
31 October 2007

(ZNDA: Mosul)  United States is warning the Iraqi authorities that the largest dam in Iraq is at risk of an imminent collapse that could unleash a 20 meter or 65 feet wave of water on Mosul, a city of 1.7 million people.  The flooding will also completely cover the ancient ruins of Nineveh, capital of Assyria, and much of the Nineveh Plain, where the large majority of Assyrian population in Iraq lives.

In May, the US told Iraqi authorities to make Mosul Dam a national priority, as a catastrophic failure would result in a "significant loss of life".

However, a $27 million US-funded reconstruction project to help shore up the dam has made little or no progress.

Iraq says it is reducing the risk and insists there is no cause for alarm.

However, a US watchdog said reconstruction of the dam had been plagued by mismanagement and potential fraud.

In a report published on 30 October the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said US-funded "short-term solutions" had yet to significantly solve the dam's problems.

SIGIR found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded to repair the dam.

Among the faults were faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects which were not completed despite full payments having been made.

'Fundamentally flawed'
  • Mosul Dam is Middle East's fourth largest dam in reservoir capacity and Iraq's largest
  • Key component in Iraq's national power grid, with four 200 megawatt (MW) turbines generating 320 MW of electricity a day
  • Built on water-soluble gypsum, which causes seepage. Subsequent erosion creates cavities beneath dam that must be plugged or "grouted" on a regular basis or dam will fail, say experts
  • Array of piezometers have been deployed to measure water pressure and leakage
  • Seismic equipment provides information to monitor dam's stability
  • US-funded reconstruction project - costing $27m (£13m) - to help shore up the dam has made "little or no progress" since 2005 to significantly improve basic grouting capability of the Iraqi Ministry of Water and Resources at the dam, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR)

The dam has been a problem for Iraqi engineers since it was constructed in 1983.

It was built on water-soluble gypsum, which caused seepage within months of its completion and led investigators to describe the site as "fundamentally flawed".

In September 2006, the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that the dam, 45 miles upstream of Mosul on the River Tigris, presented an unacceptable risk.

"In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world," the corps warned, according to the SIGIR report. "If a small problem [at] Mosul Dam occurs, failure is likely."

The corps later told US commanders to move their equipment away from the Tigris flood plain near Mosul because of the dam's instability.

The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, and US ambassador Ryan Crocker then wrote to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki urging him to make fixing the dam a "national priority".

"A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris River all the way to Baghdad" the letter on 3 May warned.

"Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20 meter deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property."

If that were to happen some have predicted that as many as 500,000 people could be killed.

Alarm bells

Iraqi authorities, however, say they are taking steps to reduce the risk and they do not believe there is cause for alarm.

The Iraqi Minister for Water Resources, Latif Rashid, says that a number of steps were being taken to tackle the problem, including a reduction in water levels in the reservoir and a round-the-clock operation to pump grouting into the dam's foundations.

Work would also begin next year on a longer-term plan to make the foundations safe by encasing them in a concrete curtain, he added.

The debate over the dam has gone on largely behind the scenes so as not to cause public panic or attract the interest of insurgents.

Assyrian Students & Youth Hold Sixth Conference in Dohuk

Courtesy of the Khoyada
18 October 2007

(ZNDA: Dohuk)  The Sixth Conference of the ChaldoAssyrian Youth and Student Union was held at the Assyrian Cultural Center in Dohuk, Iraq between October 14 and 15. 

198 delegates attended this conference from several branches of the Union.   Reports of each delegation was read and accepted into the minutes of the meeting.

The first day of the conference was primarily allocated to the discussion of the hardships faced by the students and the youth in completing their education and university studies amid the deteriorating conditions prevailing in Iraq.  Assassinations of the university professors, attacks on Christian students, and inability to find work after completion of a university degree were among such issues discussed.  

198 delegates attended the 6th Conference of the Chaldo-Assyrian Student Union in Dohuk, Iraq between Oct 14 and 15.

"The brain drain", exacerbated by the exodus of the Assyrian students from Iraq, is a serious social issue in that country, particularly in cities and towns dominated by Assyrians.  One possible solution elaborated by the participants was the establishment of colleges, universities, and institutions for research and higher learning in the Nineveh Plain.

The participants agreed that their efforts to obtain higher education should continue and asserted their commitment to overcome all obstacles and develop mechanisms to strengthen the educational experiences of the students and the youth, with an emphasis on the study of the Syriac language at all educational levels.

The Conference discussed the use of the name "Chaldo-Assyrian" and after extensive discussions voted to keep this name as a unifying tool and a commitment to the decision reached at the October 2003 conference in Baghdad.

The Conference adopted new procedural rules and elected a new Secretary of the Union and an Executive Committee.  The following is the list of the new officers:

The Executive Committee elected at the Sixth Conference of the Union
Secretary of the Union Ninos Youhana  
Executive Committee    
  Naramsin Dawood Awitar Senharib
  Tony Johnson Tommy Giwargis
  Chaldo Ramsey Add Yousif
  Ninos Odisho Polus Wassim
  Sandy Marcus Maggie Ador
  Toma Qaith Noel Ador
  Dawood Zia Karim Hasso
Members on Reserve    
  Allen Tibsima Fadi Ghanim
The new Executive Committee of the Chaldo-Assyrian Students Union in Iraq.

Maliki Pledges to Protect Christian Minority from Violence

Courtesy of the Canadian Press
27 October 2007

(ZNDA: Baghdad)  Iraq's prime minister pledged on 27 October to protect and support the Christian minority that has been fleeing the chaos and sectarian violence in the country.

In receiving the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, Mar Emmanuel III Delly, the head of the Chaldean Church in Iraq and the world, Nouri al-Maliki affirmed his government's readiness and determination to defend the small community and to stop the outflow of Iraqi Christians, according to a statement by al-Maliki's office.

Mar Delly has been outspoken about the need to protect minority Christians from Iraq's spiraling violence.

Pope Benedict XVI named Mar Delly as one of 23 new cardinals as a prince of the Roman Catholic Church on 17 October.

Since the 2003 war, Iraqi Christians, mostly Chaldeans, were the targeted by Islamic extremists who labeled them "Crusaders" loyal to the U.S. troops they are fighting.

The Christian community, about three per cent of the country's 26 million people, is particularly vulnerable. It has little political or military clout to defend itself.

Churches, priests and businesses owned by Christians have been attacked by Islamic militants.

Seeking a better and safer life, about 50 per cent of Iraq's Christians may already have left the country, according to a report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Chaldean Patriarch on Iraqi Refugees in Lebanon

Courtesy of the Catholic Online
23 October 2007

(ZNDA: Beirut)  Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Cardinal-designate Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad thanked the people of Lebanon for their hospitality and called for more help for Iraqi refugees there.

Millions of Iraqis have fled their homeland to escape violence, terrorism, extortion and death, said the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church at a Mass in St. Raphael Chaldean Cathedral in Beirut Oct. 21.

He appealed to Lebanese authorities to ease the burden weighing on the lives of the tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, many of whom are Christian.

He expressed gratitude toward the Lebanese who have welcomed Iraqis seeking refuge "while they wait for the storm to pass" in their homeland.

Cardinal-designate Delly noted that Iraqi refugees face numerous difficulties, particularly regarding their employment, legal status and ability to obtain work permits.

Although they receive emergency aid, notably from Caritas Lebanon and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, they need more help for medical treatment and education for their children, he said. Caritas Lebanon is the local agency of the Caritas Internationalist confederation of Catholic relief, development and social services organizations.

He said the refugees live in "extremely poor conditions."

"They are packed in small spaces for which they pay high rents even though their refugee status qualifies them for better treatment, especially from the police," Cardinal-designate Delly said.

Cardinal-designate Delly has stood out as the voice of the suffering of all Iraqis during the ongoing war in his country. He had retired as an auxiliary bishop of Baghdad when he was elected patriarch in 2003, just months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, at the Mass Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut called attention to the "intolerable treatment of Chaldean Christians by extremist groups in Iraq, forcing the Christians to convert, or kidnapping them or killing them, not to mention violence against women, the elderly and children, the killing of priests and destruction of churches."

"Is this the Iraq that we know?" Bishop Kassarji asked.

"Surely, what is happening in Iraq today is inhumane and contrary to all religious beliefs and traditions," he said.

The bishop noted that "there are people in Iraq that want to stay in their homeland, who refuse that their lives be at the mercy of others ... who plead for the Iraqis to come back to their senses."

News Digest
News From Around the World


Assyrian-Iraqi Poet, Sargon Boulus, Dies in Berlin

Courtesy of the Daily Star (Lebanon)
23 October 2007

"The Ziggurat Builders"
by Sargon Boulus

They were
the first dreamers
who embodied the shape
of a dream in clay:
a stairwell of prayers
that will scale
the heights.

They knew:
a stranger once
passed among them,
and disappeared.
His shade
will be redeemed
in the form
of a ziggurat -
this ship of the gods
whose figurehead
will rend the clouds.

And learned:
it is a sea of time, 
on whose shore
from time to time,
we might glimpse
an ancestor's 
figure in white,
who will nod to us

across a thousand years
and wait for his ship.

(ZNDA: Beirut)  He walked across the desert from Baghdad to Beirut without a passport in his hand or a single dinar in his pocket. He joined up with Yusuf al-Khal and Adonis and helped revolutionize Arabic poetry from the tabletops of the Horseshoe cafe in Hamra. When he was jailed for entering Lebanon without proper papers, the novelist Ghada Samman used her connections and sprung him loose - but only on the condition that he leave the country.

When he made his way to the United States, the artist and writer Etel Adnan helped him travel from New York to San Francisco, where he fell in with the Beat generation. In his own words he wrote furiously from the time he was 12 until his death, on Monday morning, in a hospital in Berlin.

The poet Sargon Boulus, who championed free verse, honored the depth and breadth of the Arabic language and translated the likes of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Ho Chin Minh, was just 63 years old.

Boulus was born into an Assyrian family in the village of Habbaniya in western Iraq. He moved to Kirkuk just as he hit his teenage years and began writing poems alone in his bedroom. "It just grabbed me," he told Margaret Obank of the literary journal Banipal, "this magic of words, of music. In the beginning, I wrote so furiously ... In was some kind of thing to do with destiny. Yes, I believe in that - in a poet's case it is always true; that that magic, once it strikes you, you can never live without it."

In 1961, Boulus sent a suite of 16 poems to Yusuf al-Khal in Beirut, who published them in the influential journal Shir. Later on, Khal traveled to Baghdad, met with Boulus, and told him: "Your place is in Beirut. Come to Beirut. You are one of us."

In 1967, Boulus set off for Beirut on foot, cutting through northern Iraq and central Syria before crossing the border to Lebanon with nothing in hand but a manuscript of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra's Arabic-language translation of Shakespeare's "King Lear."

He spent a precious few years in Beirut and then, after that brief stint in prison, he left for America.
In San Francisco he met the Beats he had been writing about for Shir in Beirut, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Boulus published six collections on poetry, including "Arrival in When City," "When You Were Sleeping in Noah's Ark" and "Live Next to the Acropolis." He also published an autobiography entitled "Witnesses on the Shore" and a short-story collection.

A funeral for Mr. Sargon Boulus was held in the city of Turlock, California on 31 October, where he was also buried.

Assyrian & Kurdish Residents of Malkieh Reconcile over Death of Kurdish Youth

On 2 November, a large gathering in the town of Malkieh, Syria took place where a huge crowd of Assyrian and Kurdish residents met to begin the reconciliation process over the killing of a young Kurdish man in April 2007.

Several thousand people met near the house of the victim, Jawan Ahmad Ali.

Metropolitan Eustathius Matta Roham of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Grand Sheik Mohammad Maasoum, Mr. Hamid Darwish, General Secretary of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party in Syria; Mr. Mohammad Ali, victim's brother; Mr. Bashir Ishaq Saadi, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Syria and many other dignitaries spoke to the public about the importance of maintaining peace through forgiveness and reconciliation.

The town of Malkieh has about 30,000 inhabitants, eighty percent of whom are Kurdish and the rest Christian.

To view more photos from this event click on the links below:

  1. Mr. Bachir Saadi, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Organization
  2. Mr. Hamid Darwish, Secretary General of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party
  3. High dignitaries walking in the streets to Jawan's family house
  4. Thousands walking from Jawan's family house to the church hall to "eat a common meal"
  5. Sharing the "Common Meal" at the Hall of the Syrian Orthodox Church
  6. Grand Sheik Mohammad Maasoum
  7. Metropolitan Matta Roham speaking; next to His Grace is Jawan's father
  8. Jawan's brother, Mohammad Ali

Zinda Magazine thanks the offices of the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Syria and His Grace Eustathius Matta Roham, Metropolitan of Jazirah & Euphrates, the Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for the information and photos presented in this report.  Metropolitan Roham is also a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

Assyrian Church Wins Two-Year Court Battle

Courtesy of the Modesto Bee
10 November 2007

(ZNDA: Modesto)  Members of St. George Assyrian Church of the East in Ceres, California were dancing and celebrating last week because a superior court judge in Santa Clara ruled that a former bishop had to hand back church property he had claimed as his own.

In a summary judgment on 25 October (click here), the judge ordered that Bishop Mar Bawai Soro must turn over the St. George church property and a plot owned by the church in Empire, California.  He had to do the same for two other Assyrian churches in San Jose and San Francisco.

According to Sargon Dadesho, a member of the Ceres church, Bishop Soro was suspended in November of 2005 for alleged "rebellion of dogma" of the Assyrian Church of the East by its ruling body, or synod.

But Bishop Soro filed incorporation documents with the secretary of state and put the three churches in the Western California Diocese under his name, thus forcing a lawsuit to regain control of the properties.

A small minority of people, "no more than 50 to 60 people" out of 300 to 400 in the Ceres congregation, followed Bishop Soro, causing a minor church split as well, Dadesho and other church members said.

It was a costly two years.

"It cost us more than $800,000 for court costs. He told his supporters the other day that it cost him more than a million dollars. We have a court date on 10 December to talk about attorney fees and punitive damages," Dadesho said.

As news of the court ruling spread, a two-day celebration broke out at the Bet Nahrain Cultural Center in Ceres.

"We are very happy. More than 1,000 people were there, the whole Assyrian community and others who are not Assyrian who joined us," Dadesho said.

What this means, besides the ownership issue, Dadesho said, is that "for the first time, we'll hold our Mass at the regular time, 10 a.m. Sunday. We're hoping that by next year, a new bishop will be consecrated."

Full Text of the Statement Issued by Bishop Mar Bawai Soro

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                 3 November 2007

His Grace Mar Bawai Soro
Church of the East
San Jose, California                                                                                                                                                                                

1.  After offering gratitude to Almighty God for His mercy and blessings in our lives, I wish to thank all our brothers and sisters in Christ who prayed for peace, called to express their love and continue their support.

2.  Concerning the civil aspect of our case, on October 25, 2007, the Superior Court of California (County of Santa Clara) reached its decision concerning the issue of the property dispute with the Assyrian Church of the East.  As law-abiding citizens of America, I have, along with our clergy and faithful, accepted the Court’s decision and agreed to transfer all such properties, financial and administration records to the other side. Just as always, all properties of the Diocese were registered under the name of both corporations.  Our side has no intention of appealing this court’s decision in order to shorten the period of pain for our people and to lessen the financial burden on them.

3.  In regard to the religious aspect, we feel more than ever motivated to pursue the much needed principles of our movement: accountability, reform and unity.  For us, victory was never about buildings & land parcels.  It has always been about offering Christian salvation and spiritual upbuilding to our faithful, restoring unity among all branches of the Church of the East, bridging the theological gap with the Protestants, re-establishing communion with other Christians, financially helping our needy people in the Middle East, and bringing unity to the Chaldo-Assyrian communities of Iraq so that our people’s rights are protected and their future is secured in our homeland. Our movement therefore by God’s grace shall continue and must further grow.

4.  In the past two years, I have stated several times that our side would not establish a new independent branch of the Church of the East, nor would it abandon or replace Church of the East tradition with another one.  We are and shall always remain faithful to the Lord, worshipping Him within the Church of the East patrimony.  Practically speaking, this means that we as a Diocese (i.e., a bishop, priests, deacons & faithful) shall unite with one of the two remaining branches of the Church of the East Tradition: either the Ancient Church of the East or the Chaldean Catholic Church.

5.  To reach such an objective, our diocesan priestly council (bishop and six priests) intends to pursue official talks with both branches of the Church of the East in order to discern the more suitable and final path that leads towards the perfection of love, which is unity.  This dialogue shall be based on, and determined by, the following principles:

   A.   The Will of the Lord Jesus Christ for His Church as expressed in the Sacred Scriptures.
  B.  The Church of the East’s comprehensive patrimony (liturgy, canons & Church Fathers) concerning the meaning and the nature of the particular and universal Church, and in regard to the historical experience of our forefathers.
   C.   The contemporary circumstances and the needs of our people in the present time.

6.      In conclusion, I pray that you and your loved ones are always protected.  May the Lord show you His love and guide you with His wisdom. May God grant our people and churches peace and unity and a renewed confidence and faith. Amen.

At press time Zinda Magazine has received only an Assyrian copy of Mar Dinkha IV's statement released on 31 October.   To read this official statement in Assyrian click here.

Barnabas Fund Launches Campaign for Iraq's Christians

Courtesy of the CNS News
1 November 2007
By Patrick Goodenough

(ZNDA: London)  The U.K.-based Barnabas Fund, an international charitable and advocacy group supporting Christian minorities in Islamic societies, has launched a new campaign to draw attention to the plight of Iraq's Christians, a community which it says "faces extinction."

The U.K.-based Barnabas Fund says that Islamic extremists in Iraq are telling Christians to convert, leave or face death.

"The militants are well on the way to succeeding in their aim, at least in the south and central areas, as Christians flee the restrictions, threats and violence imposed on them."

Iraq's Christians -- who include Chaldean Catholics, Assyrians, Orthodox Syriacs, Catholic and Orthodox Armenians, and Protestants -- are mostly non-Arabs who trace their origins to the ancient Assyrian empire.

Members of one of the world's oldest Christian communities, they have over the centuries survived persecution and ill-treatment at the hands of Muslim Arabs, Kurds, Turks and Mongols, the Barnabas Fund said.

During World War I, some 750,000 Assyrians were killed by Ottoman Turks and Kurds, an atrocity far less frequently discussed than the atrocities committed against the Armenians over the same period.

The Minority Rights Group International this year named Iraq the second-most dangerous country in the world for minorities, after Somalia. Apart from Christians, Iraq also has very small minorities of Yezidis, adherents of a religion that predates Islam and Christianity; and Mandaeans, a sect that reveres John the Baptist.

A 1987 census recorded 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, according to a State Department report in September. Researchers say the numbers began to drop steadily after the 1990 Gulf War, with some attributing this to a rise in anti-Christian sentiment as a result of the war and international sanctions campaign.

The exodus sped up following the 2003 U.S.-led war to topple Saddam Hussein, and today, estimates of the community's size range from 300,000 to 800,000, with a Chaldean bishop in Baghdad in mid-2006 putting the figure at 600,000.

Religious freedom researchers say Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish elements have been implicated in the maltreatment of Christians.

The Barnabas Fund published translations of letters sent by Shi'a organizations to Christians in Baghdad ordering women to wear the Islamic veil or face the consequences.

A letter sent to one Christian family threatened death, kidnapping and bombing or the burning down of its house if the family did not comply with wearing the veil and following Islamic principles.

It reported cases of Christian women threatened, kidnapped, assaulted and killed.

The Barnabas Fund said many Christians who have left Iraq are struggling with basic needs in neighboring Syria and Jordan. Of those who remain in the country, many have moved to the autonomous Kurdish area in the north.

The organization, which has been helping the community inside Iraq since 1999, urged Christians to lobby their elected representatives about offering Iraqi Christians at risk asylum in their countries.

'Violence, discrimination, marginalization'

A fortnight ago, in what was seen as a reflection of the Vatican's concern about indigenous Christian minorities in the Middle East, Pope Benedict named a Chaldean church leader, Emmanuel III Delly, as one of 23 new Roman Catholic cardinals.

Delly, who warned in a statement last May that Iraqi Christians were facing "blackmail, kidnapping and displacement" at the hands of Sunni insurgents and said the government was not acting to protect the community, met last Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The prime minister said in a statement afterwards that his government was committed to defending Christians and preventing the further exodus from Iraq.

Iraq's post-Saddam constitution guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief and practice, but it also declares Islam to be the official religion and states that no law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body advising the White House and Congress on religious persecution issues, reported in its 2007 annual report that Iraq's non-Muslim minorities "face widespread violence from Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadis."

"They also suffer pervasive discrimination and marginalization at the hands of the national government, regional governments and para-state militias, including those in Kurdish areas," it said.

The commission consequently placed Iraq on a "watch list" and said if the situation doesn't improve, it will recommend that it be listed as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.

Iraq was put onto the CPC list in 1992, but the administration removed it in 2003 after toppling the Saddam regime. Designation provides for a range of actions against governments that engage or tolerate egregious religious freedom violations, including sanctions.

Countries currently on the CPC list are Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Eritrea.

1915 Genocide Monument Erected in Wales

(ZNDA: London)  On 3 November a monument to commemorate the Assyrian-Armenian-Greek Genocide of 1915 was unveiled in Cardiff, England.

Many screaming Turkish protestors were present to disrupt the event and the Requiem led by Bishop Nathan Hovhannissian and the St Sarkis Church Choir from London.

The Assyrian Bishop, Khoshaba Guorges from the Ancient Churches of the East, also prayed and addressed the meeting.

The monument was unveiled by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales and His Excellency Dr Vahe Gabrielyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United Kingdom.

Wreaths were laid in memory of the Armenian and Assyrian victims of the 1915 Genocide.

The event was followed by an afternoon of speeches and Welsh and Armenian music, poetry and dancing. Permission to erect the beautiful Stone Cross monument, a veritable Armenian Khatchkar, was granted by the United Nations Association Wales on land owned by the National Assembly of Wales.

Kayseri Constructs World’s Largest Cuneiform Monument

Courtesy of Today's Zaman
3 November 2007

(ZNDA: Diyarbekir)  The Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality in central Turkey has erected the world’s largest clay cuneiform monument at Kiçikapı Square in Kayseri on Thursday.

The monument is a large copy of the clay tablets used by Assyrian traders 4,000 years ago.

Professor Fikri Kulakoğlu, who is in charge of excavations at Kültepe, expressed his gratitude over Kayseri Mayor Mehmet Özhaseki’s efforts to preserve the historical heritage of Kayseri.

Kulakoğlu said the excavations at Kültepe, located 10 kilometers from the Kayseri-Sivas highway, have been under way since 1948. He noted that they have discovered over 20,000 cuneiform tablets so far. “Kültepe’s significance stems from it being the first place where Anatolia encountered writing. Kayseri recently began realizing its value, and I appreciate Mayor Özhaseki for supporting the excavations and erecting a monument with a replica of the clay tablets we discovered.”

Emphasizing the importance attributed to Kültepe, Özhaseki stated that they have initiated several projects to make the excavation site easier to visit and to be able to introduce it to the world.

Özhaseki said they have completed the construction of paths linking to the site from seven different locations in the city and placed four different figures, which represent Kayseri, along some of these pathways. “One of these figures is the monument of the cuneiform tablet, dating back to the Assyrians. The specialists translated it so as to create a replica of it. The replica is 3.30 by 2.20 meters and includes a Turkish translation on its lower section. The world is closely watching the historical monuments that have been dug up in Kültepe, but unfortunately we don’t appreciate its value much. We are trying to do our own bit to make up for this shortcoming,” he said.

The other structures erected on the remaining pathways include a fountain as well as the symbols of a mountain climber and parachutist.

Chaldean Store Owners Boycott Miller Brewing Company

Courtesy of the Catholic News Service
3 November 2007
By Robert Delaney

(ZNDA: Detroit) Chaldean Catholic Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim credited the support of Chaldean Catholics in metro Detroit for the success of a boycott of Miller Brewing Co. products that he said resulted in the company pledging to never again support events that insult and offend religious sensibilities.

"We were a big factor in that," said Bishop Ibrahim, who heads the Southfield, Mich.-based Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, the Chaldean Catholic diocese for the eastern half of the United States.

In metropolitan Detroit, Chaldean Catholics own about 2,000 party stores -- about 90 percent of the total of the area's independent neighborhood convenience stores that sell food and other items, including alcoholic beverages.

Bishop Ibrahim worked with Chaldean ethnic and business groups to boycott Miller products after the company's logo appeared on a poster for a Sept. 30 San Francisco street fair that mocked Leonardo da Vinci's painting of "The Last Supper" and had what critics described as a sadomasochistic theme.

The New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and other Christian groups expressed outrage, and the league immediately called for a boycott of Miller until the company apologized for its association with the poster and the fair.

On Oct. 31 the Catholic League said it was dropping the boycott and its anti-Miller public relations campaign because the company had extended its Oct. 26 apology over the use of its logo to an acknowledgment of "disrespectful activities" at the fair.

The poster featured men clad in the leather outfits common to the sadomasochistic homosexual subculture. Various sex toys were on the table in front of them. The fair itself featured a man dressed as Christ and a stripper who were lifted up over a Catholic church by a piece of construction machinery men dressed in mock nun garb.

Bishop Ibrahim announced the boycott Oct. 14 at Mother of God Chaldean Cathedral in Southfield. "I told our people, if they are really believers in Jesus Christ, to boycott Miller products," the bishop said.

"Our religion is important for us. I told our people Sunday (Oct. 28), 'Look how it is in Iraq, with all the pressure on them, not one (Chaldean) family has changed their religion. And here we are in the United States, and someone is mocking our religion, and we are going to do nothing?'" Bishop Ibrahim told The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Latin-rite Detroit Archdiocese.

"I told them that if they support someone who is supporting such activities, it is just as if they were doing those activities too," he said.

The bishop and leaders of Chaldean ethnic and business groups were meeting the afternoon of Oct. 29 at the Chaldean diocesan center in Southfield, a Detroit suburb, when they received word from Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of Milwaukee, where Miller is based, that he had just received a new letter from Miller that seemed to agree with the terms.

Two days later the league announced it was ending the boycott.

Bishop Ibrahim said he is very pleased with the near total participation of Chaldean business owners with the boycott. "I'm happy we defended our faith and our values," the bishop said.

On Oct. 29, Saad Kassab, proprietor of the King of Woodward party store in Highland Park, about a half-mile north of Detroit's Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, told The Michigan Catholic he had ordered no Miller products for the store for three weeks.

"They disrespected my religion. It's not right; it wouldn't be right to do it with any religion," said Kassab, a member of St. Thomas Chaldean Parish in West Bloomfield Township.

His wife, Ahlam Kassab, said that when they explain the reasons behind the boycott to customers, "99 percent of our customers are agreeing with it."

Chaldean Store Owners Arrested in Pop Can Smuggling Ring

(ZNDA: Detroit)  Michigan authorities said that in the last 2 months they have arrested and named 15 people and seized more than $500,000 in cash after breaking up a smuggling ring that collected millions of beverage containers in other states and cashed them in for 10 cents apiece in Michigan.

The 10 people were arraigned on charges ranging from false pretense, a possible 5-year felony to running a criminal enterprise, a possible 20-year sentence.

A 67-count warrant was issued as part of Operation Can Scam, according to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Some suspects are Chaldean-Assyrians who own liquor and convenient stores in Michigan.

The Chaldean-Assyrian suspects are Waleed Kada, 23; Eddie Barash, 56; Aziz Miha Aboona, 48; Saad Choulagh, 37; Essam Sattam, 47; Adnan Elias Kada, 46; Romel Kejbou, 52; Michael Friedrick Krauthofer, 37; and Eddi Aboona.

These suspects ran grocery stores such as Save Plus Superstore in Pontiac, The Larosa Market in Sylvan Lake, Value Foods in Ypsilanti, The Farmer John, Savemart Food Center and the Americana Foods in Detroit.

Investigators allege that millions of non-redeemable out-of-state cans were collected, crushed, packaged in plastic bags and sold at a discount to merchants who then redeemed them.

Bulk redemption payments from the state are based on weight.

The scheme defrauds Michigan and many other states that allow such a deposit on aluminum cans and glass bottles.  In many U.S. states the proceeds are used to pay for environmental cleanup efforts.

In Michigan this type of activity defrauds the state approximately $13 million," according to Col. Peter Munoz, Michigan State Police director.

The probe recalled a 1996 episode of "Seinfeld" in which two characters learn about Michigan's 10-cent deposit law and head there with a truckload of 5-cent New York cans, hoping to cash in on the difference, before getting sidetracked.

Mary Pera Eshoo (1916-2007)

Mariam Eshoo

Miriam Mary (Pera) Eshoo, 91, of New Britain, Connecticut, widow of Nicholas E. Eshoo, died Monday (November 5, 2007) at Hartford Hospital.

Born in the Urmian village of Taka Ardishy in northwest Iran, she lived in New Britain most of her life. Mary was employed at Peter Paul Electronics in New Britain for 33 years, retiring in 1991. She was a member of St. Thomas Assyrian Church of the East in New Britain; the church sewing club; and the Taka Ardishy Society.

Surviving is a son, Paul Eshoo and his wife Patricia of Kensington; two daughters, Margaret Aziz and her husband Joseph of Kensington and Hilda Roden and her husband Martin of New Britain; a brother, Joseph Pera and his wife Esther in Syria; a sister, Mary Kakos in West Hills, CA; nine grandchildren, Diana Veneri and her husband David of Prospect; Elizabeth Mongillo and her husband Paul of Berlin; Jason Aziz of Kensington; Paula Eshoo of New Britain; Marlene Eshoo of Bristol; Melissa Simard and her husband David of Kensington; Stephen Roden and his wife Ann Marie of Plainville; Mark Roden of Plainville and David Roden of New Britain; six great grandchildren, Nicholas and Natalie Veneri, Jacob and Zachary Mongillo, and Toby and Noah Simard; several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were held last Thursday at 11 AM at St. Thomas Assyrian Church of the East, 120 Cabot Street, New Britain, CT 06051. Burial was in the church cemetery.   In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Thomas Assyrian Church.

Surfs Up!
Your Letters to the Editor


Iraq and the War

Eli Mansour

The war continues ….
People struggle to survive.
No birds, only bullets that fly…
Unjust treatment everywhere.
We may not think about it …
But it is definitely there.

People are being brutalised and tortured.
Being killed like lambs at the slaughter house.
Bombs killing people, blood shed everywhere.
People put to gun point, humanity in despair…

War going on for years ….
Yet this isn’t the end of tears.
It’s only the beginning of our fear.
Don’t worry. God is always here.

Don’t always believe what the media says.
Look with your own eyes and see all the lies…

In Iraq there is only sadness.
Now, we can stop the madness.
In Iraq what’s done is done,
America can’t just leave and run.

It’s time for you “Bush” to repent.
Look at all the money sent,
What if it was differently spent?? .....
Imagine no war, no crime, no tears, no fright…
Faces, places, and skies so bright.

 Eli Mansour is 13-years-old and lives in Sydney, Australia.

A Tribute to an Othuroyo: Malfono Hanna Geliyo

Matay Beth Arsan, MD

Most of all, Hanna Geliyo was a philantrope, who abominated both the injustice against his Assyrian people and the dissipation of our Nation.”

Israil Makko, Honorary Chairman of the Assyrian Federation of Middle Europe and long-time companion

Malfono Hanna Geliyo is described as a teacher, father, friend and son of the Assyrian national movement. Only 65 years old, he left the community in Gutersloh in shock after a short time of illness.

On Sunday, October 7th 2007, hundreds of Assyrians from all over Europe gathered in the town of Gutersloh, Germany. Many well-known personalities of the Assyrian community arrived days before the ceremony, paying their respect at the Mesopotamian Assyrian Association of Gutersloh. The members of the Association worked hard, taking care of the numerous guests, loyal to the man who had been their friend, teacher, father and guide for several decades.

The spiritual ceremony was composed of two parts: the patriotic Assyrian ceremony and the religious Syrian Orthodox Church Mass for the deceased, known as the "lewoyo ruhonoyo".

The casket of Malfono Hanna was covered with the Assyrian flag.  His well known compatriots, poet and director, George Farag; singer, Simon Kaplo; and the current chairman of the Assyrian Federation in Middle Europe, Shlemon Yonan contributed to the ceremony with speeches, poems and songs. Also, the younger generation paid its last respect: Babylonia sang Ninwe, Emo d'Gabore (Nineveh, Mother of Heroes), and the young talent, Ninorta, performed the song Moth Beth-Nahrin (My Homeland Mesopotamia).  Both songs are patriotic songs written by the Assyrian music pioneer Gabriel Asaad.

Among the present that expressed their condolence were:

  • Assyrian Federation of Central Europe (ZAVD)
  • Assyrian Mesopotamian Association Enschede (Holland)
  • Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO)
  • Assyria Foundation Netherlands
  • Bethnahrin Association of Augsburg Funoyo Magazine
  • Yoken bar Yoken Assyrian Foundation

Letters of condolence were sent by:

  • Bishop Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktas, St Gabriel Monastery in Tur Abdin
  • Bishop Mor Filoxinus Saliba Ozmen, Zafaran Monastery (Mor Hananyo) in Mardin
  • Bishop Mor Julius Hanna Aydin - Patriarchal Vicar for the Syrian Orthodox community of Germany

After the ceremony, the Assyrian national flag was handed over to the Geliyo family. More than 20 of his close friends and another 20 relatives accompanied his body to his native city of Midyat in Tur Abdin, where he was buried at the Mor Abrohom Monastery in the presence of His Eminence Bishop Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktas of the St Gabriel Monastery and His Eminence Mor Filoxinus Saliba Ozmen of the Zafaran Monastery in Mardin and the Syriac Orthodox clergy of Tur Abdin.

The legacy of Malfono Hanna Geliyo is the distribution of the idea of national awareness among the first generation of the Assyrian immigrants in Europe. By passing on the light of awareness towards our scattered and dying nation, he has established himself as one who will be remembered and honored by his people. We salute you Malfono, may God bless your soul.

His private library will be brought to the Assyrian Association of Gutersloh and will carry his name. The Board of the Association together with his friends will publish a book on his life and his writings in several Assyrian and non-Assyrian magazines.

"Othuroyo" is western Assyrian (syriac) for "Atouraya" or Assyrian.  Similarly the word Malfono has its eastern counterpart as Malpana or Teacher.  For more information and photos of the Funeral Mass click here.

On Dr. Osipov's Article

Tony Khoshaba

I admire you Dr. Osipov for your courageous stand. It is time for Assyrian to rise against “the grave-diggers of the Assyrian Nation”. It is refreshing to see that we still have hopes that our intellectuals will rise and take control of our national institutions which are high jacked and reduced to bunch of confessional and tribal and puppet institutions servings the interests of non-Assyrian entities.   Best regards to Dr. Osipov.

America Welcomes Sabri Atman

Rosie Malek-Yonan

Like an umbilical chord still connected to its bitter past, the Assyrians cannot detach from the events perpetrated against their nation by the Ottoman Turks, Kurds and Persians in the shadows of WWI.  The past looms unsettled.  The past waits patiently and stubbornly to be made right so that the Assyrian nation can finally be at peace.  The Assyrian nation has been mourning its dead for 92 years.  It is time to lay them to rest with honor.  It is our human right.
Assyrian nationalists and educators such as Mr. Sabri Atman are doing their part to educate and create worldwide awareness of the recognition of the Assyrian Genocide.

Sabri Atman & Rosie Malek-Yonan at the Assyrian American Association of Southern California on 9 November 2007.  Photo by Pearlida Pictures.

This week, Assyrians of America welcome Mr. Atman in their midst. His arrival in the U.S. is indeed a bittersweet encounter for the Assyrians of this region.  We are reminded of the importance of remaining vigilant today in safe guarding our history and our past to ensure our nation’s future so that it may be free from oppression and persecution.
Mr. Sabri Atman, founder and director of the Assyrian Seyfo Center in Europe, is presenting a lecture on the topic of the Assyrian Genocide entitled “Genocide, Denial, and the Right of Recognition.”  The five-city American tour that began in Los Angeles on November 9th at the Assyrian American Association of Southern California, will continue on to San Jose (November 10th), Turlock (November 11th), Detroit (November 16th), and end in Chicago (November 17th) before he heads for Armenia with the same powerful message.
I had the honor of attending Mr. Atman’s lecture in Los Angeles.  He presented the facts clearly and succinctly.  But what was most striking about his presentation was his unshakable conviction to demand justice for his Assyrian nation from the Turkish government.
“Today we are not blaming every Turk or Kurd for the past events. But this was done to us in their name,” said Mr. Atman.
Indeed, the silence of the majority and the opposition of many today to recognize the Genocide of the Assyrians, Armenian and Greeks, only emphasizes the support of the denial of these Genocides.
Mr. Atman carried with him a palm size reddish stone from his homeland in Southeast Turkey where he is banned from ever visiting.  The stone is a constant reminder of the bitter memories of not just his family’s past but also the past of the Assyrian nation that is perpetually battling 92 years of defiance by the Turks.
Like most Assyrian families, the death of his grand parents at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, is a memory that follows him daily.  “The Assyrian nation has inherited incredible scars.”
“We Assyrians live in many different countries, but our existence is not recognized.  Our fundamental rights are not recognized,” said Mr. Atman. According to him, the year 1915 was one of the dirtiest pages of Turkish history and consequently, “the Assyrian people did not just suffer a tragedy.  They suffered a genocide!”
It is true that as children, we Assyrians grew up learning and hearing about the atrocities committed against our nation during WWI.  “We shed tears of blood,” resonated Mr. Atman. A statement I know only too well when I remember the eyes of my own grandmother, who was a survivor of the Assyrian Genocide.  She was one of the lucky ones, unlike the rest of her family.
“We are the grandchildren of the Genocide.  They owe us an apology.”
An apology that is long overdue.

Rosie Malek-Yonan is the author of The Crimson Field and serves on the Board of Advisors of Seyfo Center.  Mr. Atman will be in Detroit on November 16 to present his lecture "Should Turkey join the EU before recognizing the Genocide of 1915? "

Jealousy and Envy

Sargon Levi Gabriel

Jealousy and envy are easy to feel but hard to define. They are the jaundice of the soul. They arise from fear, insecurity and immaturity. The jealous person is an immature person. Immaturity is marked by a preoccupation with self. Jealousy is more self-love than true love. The love of liberty is the love of others. The love of power is the love of ourselves.

If we pour our best positive energy into our Assyrian Nation the Assyrian Nation will achieve better. We have to make room in our life for all Assyrians. Enviousness has no feeling of compassion for any one. No one can make an envious person happy he has to do that for himself.

I never hide my feeling from acts of goodness performed by others. I admire the hard working Assyrians for the benefit of our Assyrian Nation and our Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East or any other Assyrian Church that is why in my articles I praise them, as they are a great vessel of enlightenment.  In praising them is to encourage our Assyrian youths to try and imitate them.

Jealous persons require their own power to assume responsibility only for themselves. The moment they criticize and depreciate the good and hard working Assyrians they rob their our own dignity. Do not let the feeling of jealousness use you. We have to think big for the future of our Assyrian Nation and our Assyrian Churches. Positive thoughts and action always bring positive results.  Please do not criticize.

Envious or jealous persons grieve over another’s good is that somehow they see that good as lessening their own values or excellence, they see others taking away their prestige.

This is what Henry Fairlie says, “Envy is not merely a grieving on account of another’s good, but a grieving because one regards that good diminishing one’s own and even as reflecting disgrace on oneself.”

Donald Capps points out that “envy forms when we believe that the others advantages or possessions diminishes or brings disgrace on us.” Once they believe that, they try to divest those they envy of their advantages, usually by trying to pull them down.”

There are a lot of positive qualities in every Assyrian as a whole. Assyrians are noble, dignified, virtuous, wise, pure, refined, considerate, kind, courageous, honest, hard working and have fidelity. It is infinitely more important to show how much one appreciates the hard work of others than to criticize. I appreciate those who care about our Assyrian Nation and about our Assyrian Churches more than the ones that do not.

Jealousy and envy may also extend to resentment over spiritual gifts and graces. There is an extreme form of Nationalism envy whereby some resent the very nationalistic life of others.

The virtue of devotion is neither more nor less than the general inclination and promptitude of spirit to do what is good for our Assyrian Cause, and our Assyrian Churches. We have to glorify exalt, and dignify the charitable work. It is a volunteer work and believe me it is not easy one I assure you that, as I am still involved in volunteer work. It is our time, and is hard and tiresome work, and no one supports us financially. All comes from our own pockets.

Jealous persons must refrain from bitter, gloomy, and spiteful and angry displeasure. When they are overcome by anger, they become angrier, sad at being sad, and irritated at being irritated. By such means they keep their hearts entrenched and soaked in anger. Such situation serves to open the way for fresh anger on the first occasion that arises. They are angry of what is just, fair and graceful acts committed by others.

We should invoke God often during the day and ask Him what does He want us to do? It is a privilege to serve our Assyrian Nation in the lowest tasks. We do not care what we do as it is for the good of our Assyrian Nation as a whole.

The Assyrian community is a place for the molding of leaders and for nurturing and developing potential ability. The virtuous and wise are pure and refined, honest and considerate and are prudent administrators. They are cautious, discreet, and foresighted, are glad to hear of their own errors, delighted in doing good, great in magnanimity, and diligent in helping and saving the needy Assyrians. Persons like the Zinda Magazine, Assyrian Observer, Nineveh .com, Assyrian Church Committees, the organizers of Habbaniya Union School and Rev Ken Joseph whose articles I read always. Their power of exemplary leaders lies in the practice of benevolence and virtue. They are courageous; see things through to their conclusion, settling them without doubt. They get rid of whatever is wrong or false. They are all volunteers doing exorbitant jobs without being paid for or appreciated. Such persons we have to admire and praise. They are all positive thinkers, kind, desiring whatever is good for all Assyrians without exception. But the negative ones are openly disgraceful, notorious and Assyrian Nationalism is invisible for them.

As Christians, we are called to imitate the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, to put on the new self-created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. The three theological God given and God- directed virtues of faith hope and charity are pure gifts of grace, gifts of God given to us with sanctifying grace so that we can live and act on the supernatural level as the groups of prudent administrators I mentioned above. At the same time that group of prudent administrators have the moral virtues that is enabling them to shape our conscious and behaviour according to the law of God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Then why should I criticize any one of them?

The imitation of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to which we are called by grace, should happen not merely in theory, in our minds, but also in our lives, in our ways of acting and reacting, then we will have highly perceptive persons entrusted with the Assyrian Nation’s affairs, as they have been tested for talent and ability, judged by accomplishment of tasks.

Thank you all and God bless Assyria, our Assyrian Nation our Assyrian Churches, Canada and the prudent administrators.

Habbaniya Union School Students’ Reunion
and its
“Heroes of our Time”

Mikhael K. Pius

Sargon Levi Gabriel is apparently a high-spirited Assyrian and may be a passionate nationalist and his positive voice may sound like a tolling bell in the ears of some.  And, like a few others, he has huge dreams for Atour, dreams that, in my opinion, are far-fetched and removed from reality, the reality which is known only by a group that has learned and earned it the hard way in the “battleground” of nationalism and politics and through the persecution and humiliation of our oppressed people inside our homeland and outside as refugees, and not through literary or oral expression of those who sit in their ivory towers and preach us a country and a nation, served ready on a silver platter—and with a change of menu now and then.   

There is some truth, Sargon, in your passionate piece in praise of Benyamin Yalda and his organizing group of the so-called Habbaniya Union School Students’ Reunion. (See Zinda dated Oct 21)  But are some statements you made, such as the following, realistically true?   

“They have taken tasks voluntarily no one else would imagine and if they did would consider impossible.” “They are specialists in religion, and cultural leadership.  They have become leaders in a complex struggle to unite our people.”  “They have distanced themselves from tribalism and favoritism.”  “They are obviously the messianic heroes for whom the Assyrian Patriots are clamoring to resurrect the Assyrian Nation from its prostration.”  Very tall talk indeed!

I know many passionate nationalists like you would probably stone me for being negative, but in my opinion the above expressions are only high-flying fancy nouns and adjectives really meant to impress, ingratiate and patronize those of similar sentiment, and I have a feeling someone may even have put you up to this crescendo of adulation!

Habbaniya Union School was and Habbaniya Union School Students’ Reunion is indeed one of a kind and all of us who have been a part of them and have an interest in the Reunion would like to see the tradition cross over into our children’s generation. And Benyamin Yalda was one of its founders and the driving force of the movement. He is an active person, a good organizer, with a pleasant personality (especially to those he benefits from or wants in his corner to do his bidding) and he and his family members, along with the other Founding Members and their families as well as the regional organizers, have all put in a lot of work into these bi- or tri-yearly reunions.  But, my dear Sargon, Ben Yalda has done this not because he is a dedicated nationalist “in a complex struggle to unite our people” (to use your own words), but because of his manipulative and obsessive personal ambition.  He has been “too restless, too impatient, too obsessed with their [his] goal,” to be the top man, completely in control of all aspects of the Reunion—and I mean all—and not accountable to any one, while his current fellow Founding Members (especially two of the three) stand aside as figureheads to do only his bidding in order to highlight and glorify his actions. In addition, he has changed the course of a limited school reunion into a showcase of general celebration to spotlight himself as the “messianic hero” of a larger assembly as well as to make an extra penny in the process. If that is not greed and vainglory, I don’t know what is.  

Hasn’t he done the same thing with the sister Association, HUSCA?  His greed for power and control and his reluctance to share equally with his two fellow directors caused the Association’s break-up and the stoppage of the publication of the much-desired HUSCA Magazine?  And although, as a consequence, two (the majority) of the three directors had no choice but to vote to dissolve the Association and to order the refund of overpaid subscriptions and to donate the rest of its fund to Assyrian educational charity, Benyamin Yalda has been defying the rule of law by refusing to comply with rules and regulations but continues usurping the seven-thousand dollar fund presently under his control.  Benyamin Yalda has indeed “prodigious powers of mind…” but, is his mind really “accompanied by a childlike simplicity of character,” or “integrity” or “humility” that is his “characteristic virtue”?

Furthermore, Sargon, I think you are trying to fantasize a purely scholastic institution such as Habbaniya Union School into “a veritable seed-bed of Assyrian Nationalism.” And you are also imagining that “the Sacred Mission of the organizers of the Habbaniya Union School [Reunion?]” (a purely social event)  is to unite us to become “one gigantic Political Power to fight for our rights and be recognized as indigenous people of Ashur.”  These tall statements are inspiring and may suit your ends, but they are not true! 

During the early years following WW1, there was a considerable nationalistic and political activity by some of our Assyrian leaders in regard to our rights and a homeland for our destitute and displaced nation, but they all came to naught primarily because of conflicting agendas by certain leaders and/or groupings.  This caused disunity and division (as it is today), while the coup de grace to our cause was delivered by the devious power politics of our mentors the British. And in its two-decade RAF-era (1936-1955) Habbaniya had some people with a spirit of nationalism but this was for the most part dormant.  The concern of the big majority of the some three or four thousand RAF Levy and civilian employees was to serve the British and make a meager living for their families. The total local population of 10 or 12 thousand heads, including all races, was immersed mainly in spiritual, sports, social and family life, and all of the Assyrians, whether from Hakkiari or Urmia origin, called themselves Surayeh or (in Urmia dialect) Suryayeh and not Aturayeh or Ashurayeh.

You are also right that a strong patriotic (and even nationalistic) feeling was generated by the underground movement Khet, Khet, Allap (Khoubba, Khouyada, Attourayah) which the late Raabi Moshi Khoshaba founded in 1942 among a group of several hundred of Habbaniya’s Assyrian local civilian employees transferred to work on a temporary RAF war project in the Iraqi desert near Shaibah. (Zinda April 1, 2006)  The fledgling movement was then transplanted in the Civil Cantonment of Habbaniya after the Shaibah labor group was returned to its home base the next year. (Due to a RAF-duty-bound agreement, however, the Assyrian Levy personnel were not involved in the Khet Khet Allap movement.)

Though clandestine (it was organized in secret cells), Khet Khet Allap gradually flourished for five or six years among many of the couple of thousand male Assyrian local civilian laborers, while its echo reached other Assyrian communities in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul and even in Iran and Syria. For a while, it drew Habbaniya’s six or eight thousand Assyrians closer to each other in a sense of brotherhood and served to narrow down the differences between the conglomeration of opposing Assyrian religious and tribal groupings in the Cantonment. But do you remember what happened next?  The movement and its Founder were betrayed to our British masters in 1947, as usual by our own traitors. The British then quietly plucked out the Khet Khet Allap sapling and destroyed it before it had grown strong roots.  

Most of those hardcore Habbaniya nationalist were older men. Some died off in the succeeding two or three decades outside Habbaniya following the RAF’s surrender of the air base to the Iraqi Government on May 2, 1955; and many of those who lived longer were too old to play an active role in our national affairs when fledgling Assyrian nationalistic movements started gradually popping up in the 1960s and onward.  But some of their children who were later accepted into Iraqi Government colleges did emerge in succeeding decades as prominent people, some as professionals in various fields of business, education and science, some as social or political leaders, and a fewer other ones as ultra-nationalists. In my opinion, this was all the Assyrian nationalism Habbaniya in general contributed.  But actually neither the Habbaniya Union School (1938-44) nor its Reunion celebrations held during the last two decades have ever had any element of active nationalism in them, except perhaps singing a few patriotic songs.  

But Habbaniya was second to none in Boy Scouting and Girl Guiding and in social and athletic life and worthy of pride to all Assyrians. A number of its sportsmen became champions in their fields and the pride of both Assyrian and Iraqi peoples.  And Habbaniya’s RAF Iraq (Assyrian) Levies played an important role not only against the Iraqi Army siege of Habbaniya in May 1941 and in the protection of the interests in the Middle East of its supposedly mentor and ally, Great Britain, and consequently in changing the course of WW2 in favor of the Allies, but also in protecting the borders of the new country of Iraq in the early years when the fledgling country was incapable of defending itself against Kurdish tribal unrest.

The spirit of Assyrianism is well and alive in every sincere Assyrian. Despite our current sorry situation and the limit of our capabilities we can still make progress toward our cause if we proceed wisely and carefully.  But first there has to be a unity in both purpose and action, especially between our leaders, otherwise what one group is building up the opposing group is tearing down, as it has happened and is already happening.  And right now the priority should be to help to ease the distress and pain of our oppressed fellow Assyrians in our homeland as well as the destitute tens of thousands stranded as unwelcome “guests” in other lands.

Father & Sons Help Purchase a Youth & Women's
Center in Alqosh

Albert Michael
United Kingdom

On the 10th of October, Assyrian Aid Society of United Kingdom received an email from AAS-Iraq asking for our assistance in purchasing a building in Sharafiya within the Alqush district in Nineveh. Sharafiya is inhabited by more than 150 families and were in need of a building to be used by the students as a youth centre and by the Women's Union. Three days later on the 13th, the building was purchased and additional funds allocated for refurbishment and the purchase of furniture. The total cost of this project was paid for by the President of AAS-UK, Mr Emanuel Kelaita and his two sons, Cliff & Roy.

On behalf of the Assyrian Aid Society, I'd like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to philanthropists Emanuel, Cliff & Roy for their continued efforts in providing for our nation in Iraq.

May God bless the Kelaita family and others that strive to sustain our presence in the homeland.

Musing with My Samovar
with Obelit Yadgar


The Whistler

I wonder if King Ashurbanipal ever whistled.

Or Tukulti-Ninurta, Tiglath-Pileser I and Sargon II. Did those great Assyrian kings ever whistle?

Did my namesake Ashur-Uballit I, the king who first made Assyria a powerful empire, ever whistle? Did he one day look across the legions of his cavalry, chariots and infantry and whistle at the power he held in his hands?

What about the weary Assyrian soldier after a bloody battle? Did he whistle to hail his achievement, or to complain about the toils of earning a living as a soldier? The ancient Assyrian farmer: did he gaze over his rich fields and vineyards and whistle with joy, or did he whistle a sour note to lament the backbreaking work as a farmer?

Did the Assyrians of old, my ancestors – did they whistle when they felt like it?

I tossed all this in my head at a local mall recently while listening to the strains from someone’s whistling of the George and Ira Gershwin 1930 tune I’ve Got a Crush on You. You know the song:
I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie. All the day and night time, hear me sigh. I never had the least notion that I could fall with so much emotion . . .”

It’s a great song, with the Gershwins’ signature splashed all over it. The whistler must have thought so. It was especially the right song to whistle at the right time.

That’s right, the simple art of whistling: songs, expressions of amazement, relief or complaint. Whoever first whistled created a useful literary, social and political form of expression. God bless him, or her, for inventing a most expressive musical instrument.

To quote the immortal words of Lauren Bacall in the film To Have and Have Not, when she turns to Humphrey Bogart and says, “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You put your lips together and then you just blow.”

I wonder if any of our Assyrian ancestors put their lips together and just blew. They must have known how to whistle. At least I think everybody knows how. What could be more natural? I doubt the art of whistling is confined to any particular people.

Escaping the Herculean challenges of shopping with my wife and two daughters, I had opted to find solace in my thoughts and a strong cup of coffee from the kiosk in the open expanse of the mall’s coffee bar area. Amid the clatter of humanity, teenage girls floated by glued to their cell phones, teenage boys kept on the prowl, fashionable ladies toted shopping bags from fashionable stores, and young men and women professionals played with their Blackberries.

Hives of raucous children buzzed round, which reminded me of the response comedian W.C. Fields gave when asked how he liked children. “Well done,” he said.

I’ve Got a Crush on You served as a fortress guarding my brain’s domain. “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” someone once said. How true indeed for my predicament as I tried to maintain my sanity amid the mall’s clamor .

Nobody did I’ve Got a Crush on You quite the way the great late Frank Sinatra did. Sinatra’s lyricism and phrasing were amazing. Not that the whistler I heard was in the same class as “Old Blue Eyes,” but he wasn’t bad. Some notes played off key, some dropped, and the bridges sounded a bit muddled. A few bars were even repeated unnecessarily, which illustrated what Lord Alfred Tennyson said on composers repeating the stanzas from his poems set to music: “Why do these damn musicians make me say a thing twice when I said it only once?” Overall I think the rendition was respectable enough to avoid embarrassment.

What especially captivated me about the whistler was the happy tone in the performance, as if it floated on a stream of morning light in spring. I could almost see the words “I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie,” like an invitation to hold hands in a field of grass drenched in sunshine after the rain. I felt the happiness in the whistler’s heart like a summons, an invitation to a concert, and I accepted it with gratitude. It felt good. It felt sweet. It felt liberating.

In a way, it also felt a little strange, like being in a new city, because it had been a while, perhaps even years, since I had heard anyone whistle. I craned my neck to see where the whistling was coming from and saw nothing but a sea of bodies rushing by. I concluded that the whistler was around the back of the kiosk, where more chairs and benches were set up. I shrugged and returned to my thoughts. 

Nobody whistles anymore. Why is that, I wondered? Sounds rush at us throughout the day, but no whistling. It’s as if whistling never existed. Not that it was ever a fad that I know of, but I recall hearing it a lot more. Then nothing. Granted, modern music is too atonal to whistle. But that’s only a small part responsible for the whistle’s decline. Is it because whistling has lost its powers of expression? Or are the other sounds around us so powerful that they drown out the need for a simple whistle? If ever a symbol for simplicity existed in our busy and complicated lives, it must be the little old whistle.  Think of its mechanical parts: just the lips.

So what happened to that instrument? Not only in the rest of the world, but also among Assyrians. When did that happen? Why did it happen? Why did we Assyrians stop whistling? Is it because we lost the music in our spirit or that we lost our original home? Neither, I think, for our identity is as strong as ever, even without our own home. Our musicality, I am sure, is as strong as ever, too. We are the same people as our ancestors: nobles, soldiers, farmers and merchants. And yes, artists, too.
Granted, our ancestors had homes in the land of their ancestors, in Assyria, whereas many of us, the descendants, have made our homes elsewhere. Yet, although we have moved on with our lives, our hearts will always remain at home in the lands of our ancestors. As Assyrians, we carry our identity wherever we are. Our identity is our home and we carry our home in our heart.

I lament that we Assyrians cannot claim our own internationally known artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Placido Domingo or Rene Fleming, who focus on the Western musical tradition. We have, however, many singers and musicians who travel the world playing the music of our people. I am glad they do, but I am also selfish and greedy. I want more for my fellow Assyrians. I want to hear internationally known Assyrian violists, pianists and singers also performing Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. I know we have the talent, because we can whistle just as well as anybody else. I’ve Got a Crush on You will sound just as sweet coming from our chops.

My thoughts compelled me to again look for the whistler, and again I considered stepping around the kiosk to see, but then I finally realized something: that I myself had been the whistler all along, that I was happy that afternoon, because I had already begun writing The Whistler in my head without realizing it.

For me, Mozart said it best: “I am happier when I have something to compose, for that, after all, is my sole delight and passion.”

Most importantly, I still knew how to whistle. Why had I stopped all those years was a mystery. It was as if I had tucked away that part of myself, leading me to believe that I possibly could have tucked away other parts of me as well. No, not my Assyrian part: for I wear it on my forehead like a jewel. That part, that identity nothing and no one can take away me, because it is mine. I am an Assyrian and I have the right to it. I know that just as much as I know that King Ashur Uballit I, my namesake, knew how to whistle. I feel it inside me and that’s all the proof I need.

Surfer's Corner
Community Events


ACSSU’s Elections and the Third Annual Meet and Greet

A report by Alhan Oraha
ACSSU, Public Relations
Toronto, Canada

At the beginning of every academic year, students in our community gather to choose their representatives at the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union (ACSSU) of Canada. This year’s election was held on October 8th during ACSSU’s General Body Meeting, which marked the addition of new positions to ACSSU’s board and new items to the bylaws. This was followed by the Third Annual “Meet and Greet” in which students/alumni were given a chance to meet other students/alumni from different institutions.

ACSSU of Canada believes that students play a major role in shaping our community. They are one of our most powerful potential resources and no one can better serve and represent these students than the ones chosen by them. On October 8th, 2007, ACSSU of Canada held its General Body Meeting to choose a new board for the new academic year 2007-2008 and to discuss proposals of changes to better serve students of our community. Alda Benjamen, ACSSU’s 2006-2007 president, started the meeting by welcoming members and presenting an overview of the major successful activities taking place in the past year (i.e., Career Night and Mezaltaa Project) and work which has been underway to expand ACSSU to embrace more universities and to strengthen services aimed at High School students. She was glad to announce that ACSSU successfully exceeded its goal of $5000 for Mezaltaa project and thanked everyone who made this success possible. The current presidents of ACSSU’s branches (Lema Yousif for the University of Toronto and Allena Slayvo for McMaster University) provided a summary of the planned activities at their respective clubs. ACSSU’s financial report was then presented by Mariam Georgis (ACSSU’s 2006-2007 treasurer).

Part of Third Annual Meet and Greet attendees.

ACSSU of Canada always strives to find the best way to serve our students fulfilling by that the essence of its existence. With so many fresh ideas to meet the increasing needs of students in our community, ACSSU’s board presented the members with several proposals including the addition of new positions and changes to ACSSU’s bylaws. These proposed amendments were open to discussion and voting. The two major items approved by the members and added to the bylaws were:

  1. Atra fundraising: an annual fundraiser for Assyrian students living in Iraq in coordination with Chaldo Assyrian Student and Youth Union.
  2. Luke Isaac Scholarship: an annual scholarship for members of our community who perform well in school and who at the same time are involved in extracurricular activities. This scholarship is in memory of Luke Isaac (York University alumnus and an ACSSU member) who passed away in 2006 shortly after graduation.

Two new positions were also approved and added to 2007-2008 board. The General Body Meeting was concluded by ACSSU’s annual board elections. The newly elected board for the academic 2007-2008 year consists of the following:


Ashorina Shamoun

Vice President

Renya Benjamen


Sandy Shlemoon


Mathew Gharibo


Ashur Sada

Public Relation Coordinator

Sargon David
Alhan Oraha

Educational Event Coordinator

Alda Benjamen

Social Event Coordinator

Lema Yousif

ACSSU Clubs Liaison *               

Allena Slayvo

High School Liaison *

Nahrain Gorrges

* New position

In addition, the board also includes ACSSU’s branches’ presidents elected in their respective schools at the beginning of the academic year:

McMaster University President- Hamilton

Allena Slayvo

University of Toronto President- Toronto
(St. George campus, Erindale campus, and Scarborough campus)

Lema Yousif

York University- Toronto              

Daniel Oraha

The new elected ACSSU committee (L to R): Ashur Sada, Mathew Gharibo, Alda Benjamen, Alhan Oraha, Renya Benjamen, Ashorina Shamoun, Allena Slayvo, Lema Yousif, Daniel Oraha; (Sitting): Sargon David, Sandy Shlemoon, Nahrain Gorrges.

Elections were followed by the third annual “Meet and Greet” held at Ishtar Restaurant (Toronto, Ontario). Members spent the rest of the evening playing games, chatting, and dining. Meet and Greet has been a tradition at the beginning of every academic year to allow students/alumni to meet friends made from previous ACSSU gatherings and to get to meet new members. This annual event aims at strengthening relations among our members in a social setting and introducing new members to other students/alumni whom they can consult when in need of academic assistance or advice.

For more information and more pictures of the event click here.

Sabri Atman in Detroit

Youel Isho
Chairman, Assyrian Universal Alliance
Detroit Chapter

"Should Turkey join the EU before recognizing the Genocide of 1915?"
A lecture by Sabri Atman
Director of Seyfo Center

As part of the Assyrian Universal Alliance campaign to promote the Assyrian cause on the international level, a lecture on the Assyrian Genocide in 1915 will be presented by scholar, writer and humanist, Mr. Sabri Atman.

This event is a part of a world-wide tour that Mr. sabri began in London in October, and has included Germany, Los Angeles, San Jose, Turlock, on to Detroit, Chicago, Armenia and to end in Belgium in December.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance / Detroit's chapter would like to take this opportunity to invite you on Friday, November 16 to listen and interact with the internationally known scholar, Mr. Sabri Atman.

ARAM Conference in London in Sept 2008

Shafiq Abouzayd (Dr.)
Aram Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Society
The Oriental Institute University of Oxford
Pusey Lane Oxford OX1 2LE – UK
Tel: +1865-514041
Fax: +1865-516824

ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies is organising its Twenty Sixth International Conference on the theme of The Mandaeans, to held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, 08-10 September 2008.

The conference aims to study Mandaeism and its relationship to Near Eastern religions and gnostic movements, and it will start on Monday 08 September at 9am, finishing on Wednesday 10 September at 6pm. Each speaker’s paper is limited to 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.

If you wish to participate in the conference, please send your answer to the above Aram email address of Aram before December 2007. If you know of colleagues who might like to contribute to the conference, please forward this message to them or send us their names and email addresses. Yet, we would like to remind our colleagues that only academics are allowed to present a paper at an ARAM conference.

The conference will start on Monday 8 September at 9 am, finishing on Wednesday 10 September at 6pm. Each speaker’s paper is limited to 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion. All papers given at the conference will be considered for publication in a future edition of the ARAM Periodical, subject to editorial review.

If you wish to know more about our ARAM Society and its academic activities, please click here. If you have any questions or comments at any time, I am always happy to receive them.

University of Chicago Oriental Institute Lecture:
Material Comforts in Neo-Assyrian Palaces

Wednesday, November 7, 7:00 PM Breasted Hall

"Banquets, Baubles and Bronzes: Material Comforts in Neo-Assyrian Palaces"
Allison Thomason, Southern Illinois University
Co-sponsored by Archaeological Institute of America
Reception to follow.

This event is free, and open to the public.

Much of what we know about the rulers of the Assyrian Empire comes from the beautiful reliefs excavated by archaeologists in the palaces of Nimrud, Khorsabad and Nineveh over the last 150 years. These reliefs, however, give only partial insight into the true, every-day life of some of the most powerful rulers in the ancient world. This lecture will use the small finds from excavations of Assyrian palaces - the movable property of the palace that would have framed the daily experiences of the Assyrian court - to shed light on the day-to-day existence of some of the most mysterious and powerful monarchs of the Iron Age.

Assyrian Star Drama Presents "Arbaa Qreeteh"

The Assyrian star drama group is proud to present “Arbaa Qreeteh”, written and directed by Fred Youhaneh.  Mr. Youhaneh has been in theater for more than 40 years and has had many successful performances in Iran, Los Angeles, Turlock, and San Jose.  The play promises to be both entertaining and educational.  We encourage every Assyrian to see this play and enjoy the performance of these talented artists and the Assyrian star drama group.

Starring: Fred youhaneh, Ramzieh Khenanisho, Serena khenanisho, William oshana, Daniel Benjamin, Tiglat Betyousef, Arbella Orshan

Artistic Director: Fred Youhaneh

Writer: Fred Youhaneh

Genre: Comedy

Show Time:   December 15, 2007 – 7:30 pm Assyrian American Association of Southern California

For more information call 310-6899227

Fred Youhaneh is one of the few multi-talented Assyrian artists who understands theater well, has a keen eye for observing social misconceptions and has a penchant for critical analysis.  The title "Arbaa Qreeteh" may be best translated into English as "The Four Rascals".

Zinda Recommendations from Gorgias Press

For More Info
The Early Syriac Lectionary
F C Burkitt
The New Syriac Primer
Dr. George Anton Kiraz
The Circular Letter of the Patriarch Bar Shushan to the Catholicos of Armenia Otto Lichti
A Syriac Valentinian Hymn William Romaine Newbold
Bar Hebraeus' Book of the Pupils of the Eye Herman F. Janssens
Analecta Syriaca Paul de Lagarde

Editor's Pick


Assyrian References in Modern Near Eastern Literature

(Part 2 of 2)

Stan Shabaz
Washington, DC

In the first part of this essay, I reviewed some trends in early modern Near Eastern literature. Starting in the later half of the 19th century, historical fiction became an important and popular regional genre. There seemed to be a thirst for stories based on historic civilizations and personalities. But, as was noted, there was a relative lack of stories based on Assyrian and Mesopotamian themes.

Political and Cultural Essayists

Yet, while not a major motif in the historical fiction of the era, there was a genre where Assyrian references were more prominent. Ancient Assyria was referenced in some of the socio-political essays of the era. Ameen Rihani discusses Assyria in a more political vein in his essay “Under the Yokes of the East and West” [1]. In this essay he describes the relations between the Phoenicians and the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. In regards to the Assyrians he states that “Assyria’s yoke was an awful yoke.” He goes on to write:

At that time, the Phoenicians oscillated between Babylon and Egypt, offering their loyalty to the more powerful of the two countries. When one became weak, they transferred their loyalty to the other more powerful king. […] They were all milk and honey to Nebuchadnezzar and they were bitter to the pharaoh. The next day, the situation would be different. It would carry honey to Egypt’s throne and vinegar to Babylon’s throne. […] Phoenicia lay between the devil and the deep blue sea, as the English saying goes. […] O Egypt, O Babylon, what is the winged sun and the winged lion? The fire and den are one and the same.

So we see that Ameen Rihani expressed reservations regarding the power of ancient Assyria. But we must understand the era in which he was writing. The Levant was just emerging from a very bitter and brutal war ending the last stages of the Ottoman Empire’s control of the region. The liberation from the Ottoman Empire came at a very high price. [2] After sacrificing so much, the people of the region were extremely sensitive to any threat to their hard won freedom. Thus, Rihani’s point was more aimed at the dangers of imperial powers in general and modern imperial powers in particular, than at Assyrian civilization per se. For, in fact, Rihani greatly admired the glory and power of the Assyrian empire.  In his book, “The Path of Vision”, Rihani states that:

after all, Nineveh and Babylon might only be asleep. To be sure, wherever there are streams of opalescent water, human life is imperishable, immortal. But sleep is often mistaken for death; and the apoplexy of a nation is of longer duration than that of an individual. Under the magic wand of modern industrialism, therefore, Babylon and Nineveh might rise again and put Paris and New York to shame.” [3]

He expresses similar sentiments as to the greatness and glory of Assyria and Babylon in his poem “Tigris” which he composed in 1922 while visiting Baghdad.

Charles Corm and Michel Chiha

Another writer of the era and friend of Rihani’s [4], Charles Corm, also has references to Assyria in his epic poem the “La Montagne Inspirée” [5]. Unlike Rihani, Corm’s references are more symbolic and stylized and less overtly politico-historical. Corm alludes to the similarities between the mythological narratives of Mesopotamia and those of the Phoenician coast. But Corm also touches upon a modern era connection as well, when he expresses “deep sadness” over the loss of the Syriac linguistic heritage:

Such sadness, sadness, unspeakable sadness! Our grandmothers spoke Syriac in Ghazir [6] […] The language of yore is forever silenced in our thin throats.

Noteworthy is the fact that Corm, a noted Francophone writer and dedicated Francophile (even to the point of dedicating his book to Maurice Barrès [7]), in this poem expresses a rare moment of unease with the famed multi-lingualism [8] of the Levant. This “philological flexibility” [9] was usually a source of great pride for Corm as well as for his friend and associate Michel Chiha [10]. Both Corm and Chiha recognized the necessity of this innate multi-lingualism for commerce, cosmopolitanism, cross cultural understanding, and, especially in the case of Chiha, for mercantilism. Perhaps this could be seen as a minor point of divergence between Corm’s philosophy of Phoenicianism and Chiha’s philosophy of Mediterraneanism. [11] Due perhaps to the Chiha family’s history and importance in international banking [12], Michel Chiha emphasized the absolute necessity for the country to always remain multi-lingual and conversant in all the living languages of trade and commerce. Corm also viewed this multi-lingualism--especially when it came to French--as a source of pride. Yet, in this instance, however, Corm expresses regret that our own ancient indigenous languages have been neglected in favor of the modern languages of world trade, culture and commerce.  He mourns the loss of facility in the Syriac language and despite being a distinguished Francophone poet he actually uses the term “tyrannical sweetness” to describe the French language. Corm writes:

For the Italian, Greek, British, Turkish and Armenian
Idioms burden her [Mount Lebanon’s] process,
While she gives herself to the tyrannical sweetness
Of the French language.

I know though that in London, Paris and Rome
Our writers shall never have their place
And that everywhere they go, albeit as men they shall be
outside of humanity.

How a people is orphaned when they are language-less
How the languages of others are but borrowed clothes
How we look uncertain, shameful, sickly, bloodless,
strange and obtrusive!

How we seem like intruders at a private party,
Even when we come full of good intentions [13]

Jubran Khalil Jubran

Kahlil Gibran (Jubran Khalil Jubran) also has a few references to Nineveh and Assyria. But, as in the case of Rihani, they are mainly allusions to the evils of empire. For example, in “We and You” he states, “You have built Babylon upon the bones of the weak, and erected the palaces of Nineveh upon the graves of the miserable.” And in “Slavery” he writes “I have followed man's path from Babylon to Paris, from Nineveh to New York  [14]  Everywhere beside his footprints in the sand I saw the marks of his dragging chains”. [15]

So basically, Gibran seems to regard Babylon and Nineveh as the ancient Souraqian [16] equivalents of the modern world metropolises of New York and Paris. And despite being a modernist, Gibran always felt that the modern urban city was a cold and lonely place and he yearned for the warmth and communalism of his homeland. He felt that the modern metropolis [17] is materialistic, harsh and imperial; its power built on the backs of people who become commoditized and divorced from nature, community and even their own humanity. His critiques of Nineveh and Babylon as the archetypal metropolises of the ancient world reflected some of this unease and loneliness which he experienced while living in the modern metropolis of New York.

But it would be wrong to take these comments as a slight against the grandeur of Nineveh and Babylon. Again, as in the case of Rihani, these comments are more of an allusion to the fleeting nature of imperial power. His references must be seen in this context. That Gibran had great admiration and respect for Assyria, and for Mesopotamian cultures in general, can be seen in his use of Assyrian motifs in his drawings, as well as some of his remarks made to friends. For example, in a letter he wrote to May Ziadeh, Gibran wrote: “I have a special fondness for everything Chaldean; the myths of the Chaldeans, their poetry, their prayers, their geometry, even the minutest relics time has left behind of their art and crafts, all these stir distant and mysterious memories within me, transporting me to days gone by and allowing me to see the past through the window of the future.” [18] And of course his great respect and use of mythological motifs particularly Ishtar and Tammuz, which is a common heritage of the Fertile Crescent from Mesopotamia to the mountain coastland of Gibran’s homeland and even unto Cyprus, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, who is none other than our Ishtar.


In later years the Tammuzi literary movement would make much use of these ancient mythological motifs. Poets and writers like Adunis, Khalil Hawi [19], Yusuf al-Khal, Khalida Said, Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, Halim Barakat, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Fu’ad Sulayman, Salah Labaki, Ounsi el-Hage and many others would make use of the mythological and spiritual patrimony of the Fertile Crescent in their works. Themes of death and resurrection would find their way into these works, alternately in the form of Tammuz, Lazarus and Christ [20]. Allusions were made to the triumph over death symbolized both by the phoenix as well as the crucifix; concepts of martyrdom, redemption and salvation filled the works of these writers. They emphasized national and societal resurgence, renaissance and transcendence from a stagnated “wasteland” [21] to a renewed era of dynamism and intellectual creativity. As Adunis writes:

Yesterday, Phoenix, yesterday someone
died on his cross
His light faded away then his
fire-glow returned.
From the ashes and the dark
it became glowing.
He has as many wings as
the number of flowers in our country,
the number of days and years
and stones.
Like you, Phoenix, his love
overflew; he felt our hunger
for him and died. He died
spreading his wings, putting in
his bosom even those who
burned him.
Phoenix, this is the moment of
your new resurrection:
What is like the ashes became
sparks, heavenly fire.
Spring returned to the roots
in the soil,
removed the sand of our past… [22]

And heralding this new era of transcendence he writes:

And blood fertilizes life. Nothing will
grow but truth and beauty. [23]


Thus we see that whether in historical fiction, political essays or modernist poetry trends there is a constant tendency to harken back to the ancient civilizations that once ruled the Near East. While some of these attempts may have relied more upon stereotyped and exaggerated caricatures than on actual historical accuracy, one can still discern an earnest attempt to mine the treasures of our ancient epics and myths in attempt to connect the issues of the present with the echoes of our noble ancestral past. It is a trend that should be heartily encouraged. It is hoped that future writers will pay more heed to the greatness of the Assyrian historical legacy and its contributions to uplifting the souls and the minds of humanity; for ancient Assyria was more than just an empire, it was a bastion of culture and civilization and the embodiment of a Higher Ideal that gives true meaning to the lives of men and nations alike.



  1. Ameen Rihani, “The Heart of Lebanon” (“Qalb Lubnan”), p. 443-444
  2. Rihani’s homeland suffered terribly during that war. The Ottoman forces blockaded the entire Levantine coast and encircled the region with troops. It is estimated that half of the population of Mount Lebanon starved to death in the ensuing famine. Estimates of total deaths range from 150,000 to 300,000 in Lebanon alone. On this subject Kahlil Gibran had written: “My people, the people of Mount Lebanon, are perishing through a famine, which has been planned by the Turkish government. 80,000 already died. Thousands are dying every day. The same things that happened in Armenia are happening in Syria. Mt. Lebanon, being a Christian country, is suffering the most. […] I cannot sleep nor rest. All the Syrians here are being tortured in the same way. We are trying to do our best. We must save those who are still alive. Oh Mary, it is too much to bear, too much. Pray for us…” (Letter from Gibran to Mary Haskell, May 26, 1916).
  3. Ameen Rihani, “The Path of Vision”, pg. 102.
  4. Ameen Rihani dedicated his book, “The Heart of Lebanon” to: “my friend Charles Corm”
  5. Charles Corm, “The Sacred Mountain” (“La Montagne Inspirée”)
  6. Ghazir is in Mount Lebanon. It was the birthplace of Emir Bechir II.
  7. Maurice Barrès (1862-1923) was a French writer and politician and figurehead of French nationalism.  Corm’s dedication reads: “In memory of Maurice Barrès who understood because he loved us.”
  8. This linguistic facility was even remarked upon by the Jesuit scholar Henri Lammens who praised the “polyglotism and philological flexibility” of the Levant and regarded it as a “badge of distinction and superiority”. Henri Lammens, “Evolution Historique de la Nationalité Syrienne”
  9. See above note.
  10. Michel Chiha was Chaldean on his father’s side whose family was originally from Mesopotamia. Michel Chiha is considered one of the fathers of the Lebanese Constitution.
  11. Said Aql would incorporate some of the ideas of Corm and Chiha and add much of his own thought as well to take these various concepts to a whole new level, even to the point of inventing a new alphabet.
  12. Chiha envisioned Lebanon as an entrôpot state, a “merchant republic” and safe harbor for capital from throughout the Mediterranean and Arab worlds. (Refer to Kamal Salibi’s , “A House of Many Mansions”, pg. 179.) Thus he always believed in the importance of close cooperation between all the countries of the Mediterranean basin; he believed that international cooperation and commerce must be allowed to flourish freely, unhindered by excessive state interference. While firm in his defense of Lebanon’s independence, he was nevertheless wary of any plans to isolate the country from its broader Mediterranean and Arab environments. Along these lines, he was also adamantly opposed to Zionist plans to create a Jewish state in Palestine. He believed that Israel was a threat to Lebanon, to the Mediterranean region, as well as to the entire Arab World. In a very prescient statement, he wrote in 1947 that “the decision to partition Palestine by creating the Jewish State is one of the most serious mistakes in contemporary politics. The most surprising consequences are going to result from an apparently small thing. Nor is it offensive to reason to state that this small thing will have its part to play in shaking the world to its foundations.” (emphasis added), Michel Chiha, “Palestine”, 1969.
  13. Charles Corm “The Sacred Mountain” (“La Montagne Inspirée”), pg. 101. These emotional and powerful lines betray a sense of alienation common to Mashriqi writers regardless of political persuasion or sectarian affiliation. They reflect a shared sense of longing for understanding, acceptance and respect that transcends political and sectarian partisanship, and are evocative of the innate Levantine spirit striving to carve out a unique socio-cultural space in a world seemingly intent against this resurrection of our indigenous ancestral identity.
  14. It is interesting that both Gibran and Rihani compared the ancient cities of Babylon and Nineveh to the modern cities of New York and Paris. See Rihani quote above.
  15. A similar attempt to use the Assyria Empire as an allusion to militarism can be found in Abdul Wahab al-Bayati’s “The Birth and Death of Aisha” which begins “Ashurbanipal loved me. For my love he built me a city […] He was destiny: a storm and an axe falling on the skulls of kings, on fortresses and cities. He loved me – alas, I had no love for him. For that, trees withered and died, the Euphrates dried up”. Towards the end of the poem we read “I see Ashurbanipal stabbing the sun with his spear. I see the prisoners of war hanging from the gallows at the frightening darkness of dusk.” It is interesting and somewhat disappointing to see how attempts to critique contemporary forces---dictatorial Arab regimes in the case of al-Bayati and the Ottoman Empire and Anglo-French imperialism in the case of Gibran---tend to allude to the ancient Assyrian empire in order to point out the futility of militarism, imperialism and power politics. This despite the fact that it was the ancient Assyrians who united the Near East, facilitated the flowering of a unique socio-cultural regional synthesis, and created beautiful works of literature, sculpture and architecture.
  16. “Souraqia” was a term occasionally used by Antun Saadeh to refer the Fertile Crescent. References to Assyrians can be found in many of Saadeh’s works including “The Ten Lectures” (“al-Muhadarat al-Ashr”) and “The Rise of Nations” (“Nushu' al-Umam”). Farid Nuzha’s journal “Asociacion Asiria” published in Argentina also contained information on Saadeh. See, for example, special issue July-August, 1940.
  17. On the subject of modern urban life, Gibran has written: “Oh people of the noisesome city, who are living in darkness, hastening toward misery, preaching falsehood, and speaking with stupidity…until when shall you remain ignorant? Until when shall you abide in the filth of life and continue to desert its gardens? Why wear your tattered robes of narrowness while the silk raiment of Nature’s beauty is fashioned for you?” (Kahlil Gibran, “Yesterday and Today”) It is interesting to compare Gibran’s ambivalence towards the modern city, which he feels is cold and materialistic, and his yearning for the simpler, rural life and contrast that with later regional writers, especially women, who expressed exact opposite feelings: that the modern city was a place of freedom and opportunity liberating them from the confinements of rural life and chafing traditionalism.
  18. Letter to May Ziadeh, 11 June 1919. In this context, “Chaldean” should be taken as referring to the whole of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations in an inclusive sense. The Near Eastern essayists of this era tended to use the terms Assyria, Chaldea, and Babylon interchangeably. On this subject, Hormuzd Rassam has written that “ ‘Chaldean’ and ‘Assyrian’ were synonymous words, and the nation was sometimes known by one name and sometimes by the other. Take, for instance, the words ‘English’ and ‘British’ which are frequently used one for the other.”  (“The Thrones and Palaces of Babylon and Nineveh from Sea to Sea: A Thousand Miles on Horseback” by John Philip Newman, p. 371)
  19. Khalil Hawi (1919-1982) born in Shweir. He committed suicide on June 6, 1982, the day the Israelis invaded Lebanon, stating: “How can we wipe out this historic shame?”
  20. References to Christ in Near Eastern literature are numerous, in most cases emphasizing the indigenous Levantine nature of Christianity and elucidating the cultural context in which the Gospels were written. In this regard the following works are especially important: Abraham Mitrie Rihbani, “The Syrian Christ”, 1916; Kahlil Gibran, “Jesus the Son of Man”, 1928; and George M. Lamsa, “Gospel Light”, 1936. Also important is this regard is “The Life of Jesus” by Ernest Renan, which emphasizes the nature of Galilee and its influence on the spirit of early Christian thought and practice. Renan writes: “Galilee […] was a very green, shady, smiling district, the true home of the Song of Songs […] In no country in the world do the mountains spread themselves out with more harmony, or inspire higher thoughts. Jesus seems to have had a peculiar love for them. The most important acts in his divine career took place upon the mountains. It was there that he was most inspired; it was there that he held secret communion with the ancient prophets; and it was there that his disciples witnessed his transfiguration.” Elsewhere in his book, Renan states that “the people [of Nazareth in Galilee] are amiable and cheerful; the gardens fresh and green. Anthony the Martyr, at the end of the sixth century, drew an enchanting picture of the fertility of the environs, which he compared to paradise […]  But the beauty of the women who meet there in the evening—that beauty which was remarked even in the sixth century, and which was looked upon as a gift of the Virgin Mary—is still most strikingly preserved. It is the Syrian type in all its languid grace.” (emphasis added) Renan then sharply contrasts Galilee with Judea: In opposition to the “charming” and “delightful” Galilean spirit, Renan uses terms like “solemn”, “insipid”, “arid”, “somber”, “obstinate”, “hypocritical” and even “atrabilious”(!) to describe the nature of Judea dominated by the Pharisees. Renan also makes note of the term “Galilee of the Gentiles”, pointing to the Syrian, Phoenician, Greek and Arab population of Galilee during Christ’s time. George Lamsa also emphasizes the Assyrian origins of the population of Galilee throughout his book, especially in the section entitled “Galilee of the Gentiles”. “Gospel Light”, p. 22-24.
  21. Many literary critics have noted an influence from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”.
  22. Adunis, “Al-Ba’th wa-al-Ramad” (“Resurrection and ashes”)
  23. Adunis, “Qalat al-Ard” (The Earth Said)

Bush: The Destroyer of Christians

Frank Schaeffer
The Huffington Post
16 October 2007

Australian mercenaries working for Americans recently gunned down two innocent women who were members of the Christian minority in Iraq. The meaning of this fiasco should not be lost on us. The fact that the Christian women were shot is part of an underreported "small" tragedy within the gigantic tragedy of the destruction of Iraq. (Full disclosure; my son was a Marine from 1999 to 2004 and was deployed several times to the Middle East.)

Bush is an evangelical Christian. And without the evangelical vote he would not have become president. So it might seem ironic that Bush is personally responsible for the persecution, displacement and destruction of the one million, three hundred thousand-person Christian minority in Iraq. (They fared much better under the secular regime of Saddam Hussein and, along with a handful of Christians in Lebanon and Syria, represented one of the last ancient non-Islamic communities left in the Middle East. According to the Times the community has been almost completely displaced and driven from Iraq following the American invasion and the civil war we unleashed.) But actually Bush's destruction of his fellow Christians is not ironic, because to Bush the Iraqi Christians (including those killed women) weren't "real Christians." According to the theology that has shaped Bush they, like their Muslim counterparts, were part of the "other."

Theology matters. And the theology of the President matters when it comes to trying to understand his behavior. Perhaps you have to have been there, done that in order to understand.

I was raised by evangelical missionary parents (Francis and Edith Schaeffer) who also happened to have quite a bit of personal interaction with the Bush family and other Republican leaders. Mom and Dad often met with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr. and stayed in the White House several times in their capacity as evangelical gurus to the powerful.

Evangelical theology is inextricably linked to the Bush presidency. And evangelicals hold to a born-again world view. To Bush-the-evangelical those murdered Christian women and all the other non-evangelical Christians in Iraq (Armenian, Syrian Catholics, Orthodox and others), are not "saved" because they aren't born-again. Rather they belong to a tradition that sees salvation as a journey undertaken within a liturgical community of faith, not a one time magical individualistic experience.

In public Bush would never call all non-evangelicals lost, nor would many media-savvy evangelical leaders, but the outlook of evangelicals is one of dividing the world into "us" and "them." And non-evangelical Christians are "them" just as much as any other "lost." How could it be otherwise when the bedrock of evangelical theology is to regard anyone who has a different theology than you -- even within the competing historic Christian traditions -- as "unsaved"?

Pat Robertson expressed the evangelical Bush-type theology a few years ago when he dismissed Eastern Orthodox Christianity as just so much "mumbo-jumbo." To the born-again only a Billy Graham-type of one-time salvation experience counts. People who merely continue practicing the ancient traditions of the Church, people just like those Armenian women the mercenaries carelessly shot down, aren't like "us." That belief explains why evangelicals are busy trying to evangelize Greek and Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholics and "liberal" Christians with the same vigor they apply to proselytizing Hindus or Muslims. And that explains why there has not been a massive evangelical outcry against Bush's destruction of the Iraqi Christian community.

According to Bush's theology he has in fact not destroyed fellow Christians. To Bush and other evangelicals the word "Christian" refers only to evangelicals. In the common parlance within the evangelical subculture, "becoming a Christian" is just another way to say that someone has become an evangelical.

The "us" and "them" mentality is instilled in every born-again believer. To evangelicals there are actually two human races; the "sheep" and the "goats" in other words us and them. And the "them" includes all non-evangelical Christians.

Evangelicals may have given up most traditional formal sacraments in favor of a personalized faith but they have developed their own "sacraments." One bedrock sacrament is the aggressive evangelism of the "lost," including all non-evangelical Christians.

The fact that Bush has managed to complete the work of radical Islam, and smash one of the last bastions of Christianity in the Middle East, is just fine with evangelicals: the destroyed people weren't real Christians, just more of those mumbo-jumbo types. It isn't as if we hired those Australians to shoot our fellow believers at some Billy Graham crusade! The murdered women were on their way to see their priest and they wouldn't have needed all that "priest stuff" if they only had accepted Jesus into their hearts and become real Christians like us.

Frank Schaeffer's memoir, "Crazy For God - How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back," went on sale on October 26.

The Assyrian Community of Verin Dvin

Courtesy of the Hetq Online
29 October 2007
By Hasmik Hovhannisyan
Translated to English by Hrant Gadarigian

Yerevan resident Susanna Kalashyan had just been promoted to the 8th grade when she was “stolen away” on the way to the school. Her “abductor” was an Assyrian from the village of Verin Dvin. More than forty years have since passed. Susanna has four children and eleven grandchildren. Her husband has long since passed away.

While Susanna understands Assyrian quite well she doesn’t speak the language. “I really wanted to learn my husband’s native tongue but whenever I tried to speak it I’d get tongue-tied, she recounts. My speaking Assyrian just wasn’t in the cards.” Susanna’s husband never forced her or the children to communicate in Assyrian. The three eldest children identify with their Assyrian roots just as matter-of-factly as they relate to their Armenian ones. As for the youngest son, Susanna says he’s Assyrian to the very core. The boy devotes all his free time to the study of Assyrian culture and history.

The largest Assyrian community in Armenia lives in the village of Verin Dvin, located in the marze (province) of Ararat. 2,000 of the village’s total population of 2,700 are Assyrian. Marriages such as Susanna’s aren’t rare in the village. Mixed Armenian-Assyrian marriages are fairly widespread. While strolling the streets of Verin Dvin you get the feeling that you’re not in Armenia. That’s because everyone speaks Assyrian. Both Assyrian and Armenian students are required to take a class that integrates the Assyrian language, literature and history up till the 11th grade. In all else, Assyrians differ little from Armenians. Both peoples share similar customs, family values and lifestyles. Assyrians are quite at ease when it comes to integrating into the Armenian mainstream.

Image courtesy of Google Earth

In the view of Meline Tamarazova, the Mayor’s Secretary, “This is quite natural. When is it that a nation strives to preserve its identity? When it’s being persecuted in the diaspora. When relations are amicable, the assimilative process takes place quite on its own.”

Relations between Armenians and Assyrians, at times friendly, at times hostile, date back thousands of years. However Assyrians first appeared on the territory now comprising present-day Armenia essentially in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first large wave came in 1828, with the signing of the Treaty of Turkmenchai that declared an end to the war between Russia and Persia. Large numbers of Assyrians relocated from Persia to Russia and some of them eventually to Armenia. The second large wave came from the Ottoman Empire during the period of the Armenian Genocide. Large numbers of Assyrians, estimates range from 275,000 to 700,000, also perished during these years. Assyrians fled to this side of the border along with Armenian refugees with the assistance of General Andranik.

Some 7,000 Assyrians lived in Armenia, mostly in the villages of Verin Dvin, Dimitrov and Arzni, up until independence was declared in 1991. Many have now left to work mostly in Russia and Ukraine where, “everything is much less expensive and the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar is higher.” A large segment of the residents of Verin Dvin are now to be found in the Ukranian village of Kakhovka where they’ve established the settlement of “Little Verin Dvin”.

If you visit Verin Dvin during the daytime you’d think only children live in the village. The adults go to the fields to work in the morning and only return after dark. Once school is over for the day the children also go to the fields to lend a hand. The “fields” are basically kitchen-garden plots where the villagers grow the essential household table-fare, rarely selling the produce.

Susanna complains that classes at the village Russian school, named after the writer Pushkin, have been cut from 45 to 40 minutes so that the children can get to the fields in time to assist their parents with the crop harvest. Almost all of the 28 children in her 16 year-old granddaughter Susanna’s classroom go to the garden plots to work, some missing school for days on end. Susanna never allows her grandchildren to miss a day of class.

There are two dance ensembles in Verin Dvin; the ‘Niniveh’ group for adults and ‘Arbela’ for the school pupils. If there’s no upcoming performance to prepare for there is almost no dance practice during the autumn months due to the demands of the crop harvest. Sixteen year-old Sona Petrova, a dancer in ‘Arbela’, says that her group mostly performs at festivals devoted to Armenia’s resident national minorities. Sona adds that if the dance ensembles didn’t exist young people would have little to do apart from working in the gardens or in construction; that is if something was being built. This is why most young people seek to leave for the city.

There are 37 residents of Verin Dvin now studying in Yerevan. Most return to the village every day after school lets out. Only those with relatives in the city remain.

Village Mayor Lyudmila Petrova assures us that while Verin Dvin faces the same host of problems as any other village, the government, especially the Regional Governor’s Office of the Ararat Marze, pays particular attention to the village. In the last two years Assyrian language primers have been printed in Armenia. Prior to this these texts were imported from Russia. Promises to pave the roads by next spring have also been made. The building of the village Cultural House, where the Mayor’s Office, the Post Office, the first-aid station and the library are located, is currently being repaired. Preparations are underway to construct a separate building for the Post Office. Lyudmila Petrova hopes that one day the clinic will also be housed in separate premises. This is one of the major issues confronting the village. While the clinic is outfitted with good technical equipment and has one doctor and three nurses on staff, its present three- room space just isn’t large enough. For example, due to a lack of space, the gynecological chair remains packed-up and unused.

There are two working Assyrian churches in Verin Dvin. Shara, the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East of Armenia is based on the Nestorian Church, while the Church of Marez follows the Orthodox faith. If Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion, the Assyrians were the first people to accept the Christian faith as early as the 1st Century A.D. From the beginning, Assyrians professed the Nestorian doctrine that declares that Jesus exists as two separate persons; Jesus, the human being and Jesus, the Divine Son of God. Those Assyrians who migrated to Russia from Persia adopted the Orthodox faith. Those who fled to Armenia during the 1915 Genocide retained their traditional Nestorian religion for a time. Today, Assyrians living in Armenia are either followers of the Orthodox Church or profess Roman Catholicism. In accordance with Nestorian Church tradition only a cross is placed in the Church of Shara, while icons adorn the Church of Marez.

There is no Armenian church in Verin Dvin as there is no need of one. Armenians attend services at the Assyrian churches. Residents of the nearby Armenian village of Nerkin Dvin also participate in church services celebrating the Feast Days of the Assyrian churches (June 14th and July 3rd). Prelate Isahak Tamraz, a young clergyman who came from Iraq several years ago now conducts worship services. The religious holidays of both Armenians and Assyrians are almost the same, the only difference being the days on which certain ones are celebrated.

If you were to ask each and every Assyrian whether they dream of eventually having their own homeland, the response across the board would be positive. As to the question would they move to a newly created “Assyria”, residents of Verin Dvin unconfidently answer, “ That’s really a tough question...after all Armenia is our homeland.”

The Three Essential Issues Facing the Assyrian
Community in Armenia

Courtesy of the Hetq Online
5 November 2007
By Hasmik Hovhannisyan
Translated to English by Hrant Gadarigian

Razmik Khosroev, of Assyrian extraction, is a stage actor with the G. Sundukyan National Academic Theatre and the first representative of the Armenian Theatre to tackle the complex role of Shakespeare’s Richard II.

His play entitled “Asoruhi” (Assyrian Woman), a dialogue between an Assyrian and an Armenian regarding the Assyrian Genocide and the present situation of the Assyrian people in Iraq, performed at the theatre in Artashat, was the first Assyrian production in Armenia.

Razmik Khosroev

He chuckles when he states, “ But I delved into Assyrian history for another reason.” The actor is the last person to be born in the former village of Gyolaysor (trans. Assyrian garden) located in the Khosrov forest. The village, settled in 1833, was razed to the ground on the actor’s birthday, May 3, 1949. This was the only instance, a period during May 1 to May 15, when the Assyrians were persecuted in the Soviet Union. It was a time when the Assyrian movement overseas had gathered momentum and when, naturally, the Assyrian communities both here and abroad were in contact with one another. It was also a period when speaking to a foreigner openly on the street could be perceived as an act of treason to the fatherland.

There were eighty households in Gyolaysor (Qoolyasar). The villagers had moved down into the Araratian plains. Most had relatives in the village of Verin Dvin and relocated there soon after the death of Stalin. 2,000 of the 2.700 Assyrians living in Armenia settled in Verin Dvin.

For a long period of time Razmik Khosroev was a member of the National Minorities Council attached to the Office of the President of Armenia. Currently, he serves as the President of the National Minorities Cultural Center. Our discussion encompasses those issues facing the Center, specifically those problems confronting the Assyrian community.

Mr. Khosroev, given the present situation, what are the immediate issues facing the national minorities in Armenia, particularly the Assyrian community?

Whilst never having political problems, ethnic minorities living in Armenia have always faced educational/cultural issues. Until three years ago there was never an official state policy in Armenia regarding the national minorities. Of course today one still cannot state that a comprehensive policy exists. The organization of one or two festivals devoted to the national minorities does not translate into assisting their cultural identity. The government allocates twenty million drams yearly to meet the cultural needs of the national minorities and we are obligated to distribute that amount amongst eleven ethnic minority communities.

It’s truly a tiny amount and what’s even more ridiculous is that the money must be distributed equitably - the same amount goes to a minority community numbering 40,000 or to one represented by only three households. Many conflicts arise due to this absence of funding. During the Soviet period Assyrian radio broadcasts were quite active, but they shut down after independence was gained. Through our efforts, Assyrian radio is back on the air. However, instead of the weekly one and a half hour program that used to be broadcast, the current program is only forty-five minutes long. Only two people work at the radio station and they receive a combined monthly salary of 13,000 drams.

Why is it that the culture of the national minorities is only represented at festivals?

I have to confess that this is more our fault than anything else. We have always organized national celebrations and song and dance shows in our villages, in our homes. All this needed to be centralized in one location. This is why I place great importance on the creation of the Cultural Center. Our Center organizes a variety of events of which I’d particularly like to mention the one and a half hour “Erebuni-Yerevan” celebration. The small Philharmonic Concert Hall was placed at our disposal for this occasion and all the national minorities put on a stunning performance. This celebration was my first attempt to bring ethnic culture to the city. Obviously, we are confronted with the problem of preserving and developing ethnic culture; especially its development. I view ethnic festivals in the same light as I did fifteen years ago. One of the immediate tasks facing the Center is to change this situation.

What work is the Center carrying out in the realm of education?

I’ve been trying for the last three years to get a law passed regarding ethnic minorities. Many ministries and even parliamentary delegates are of the opinion that the rights of the minority communities are already protected by the Constitution so why, they ask, do we need another separate law? However, I am convinced that there is a need for a specific law on the books that also touches on educational issues. There’s a barrier in our educational system that prevents one from teaching without a pedagogical degree. We ourselves have to train our specialists since there is no institution of higher learning in Armenia where the Assyrian language is taught. We send people to Urmia (in northwestern Iran, where 870,000 Assyrians live). Having mastered the language they return here only to find that they cannot teach in the schools since they do not possess the proper teaching degree. The Khachatur Abovyan Pedagogical Institute is the only institution that assists Assyrians in this matter for which I am deeply grateful to the rector. Those Assyrians who study the language in Urmia are accepted into any of the Institute’s faculties on a correspondence basis. Upon graduation they are granted the right to teach Assyrian in the schools.

Maintaining the language is really very important for Assyrians today. Assyrians are unique amongst all national minorities in Armenia not only because they are one of the most ancient of peoples, but due to the fact that they do not have a government to tackle the problems of language preservation.

After independence, what effect did the conversion of schools to an Armenian curriculum have on the preservation of the Assyrian language?

We have a large village named Artagers in the Hoktemberyan area. Fifteen years ago the schools adopted an Armenian curriculum. In the village today you can hardly find a child who speaks Assyrian. The assimilative process proceeded quite rapidly. Thus we’re in favor of maintaining Russian-oriented schools. Our children graduate from Russian schools and still are able to pass the Armenian language exams with high grades. This year we have seven students. The Russian school is neither a problem for us, or for the Armenians.

Despite the fact that the Assyrians are one of the world’s oldest peoples, it appears that many in Armenia are not only unaware that there are Assyrians living in their midst but that they believe that the Assyrian nation vanished off the face of the earth long ago. Is this perception due to your passivity or to our indifference?

Sadly, this is true. I think that there are several factors at play here. One of the most important is the absence of any Assyrian literature. For successive centuries the Assyrian people maintained their existence on the oral tradition, the spoken word. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire in 605 B.C., Assyrian literature disappeared for all practical purposes and it’s only in the past 10-15 years that attempts have been made to revive it. It was in the early stages of the present war in Iraq that the Ashurbanipal Library and Museum, one of the oldest in the world, was razed to the ground and thus a centuries-old accumulated cultural inheritance was obliterated.

In fact, we’ve only begun to teach the Assyrian language in schools during the past twenty years and it is only lately that such classroom instruction continues till the 11th grade and not just the 3rd, as in the past. It’s truly tragic that one of the oldest peoples on earth is destined to oblivion. Alexander the Great bowed in admiration before the magnificence of the Assyrian culture when he conquered Babylon. The Assyrians brought civilization to the world, script and literature, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the first constitution - the Code of Hammurabi in the face of a rock-cliff and which is still studied today in law schools. And what marvelous and wise laws they are. One, for example, states that if a physician injures a patient’s eye with a silver scalpel he is obligated to reimburse the patient to the tune of seventeen silver coins. If this law were ever to be included in any nation’s constitution today, one-half of the specialists would quit the profession.

According to official statistics some 750,000 Assyrians were massacred during the period of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. I know that lately you have been actively seeking to publicize this issue. What’s been the response of the Armenian government?

We have only been able to raise such issues in Armenia during the last ten years. Prior to this, one could not speak of such matters. Of utmost importance is that Armenians recognize the Assyrian Genocide. The government of Armenia has never been interested in placing the Assyrian Genocide in the same context as the Armenian massacres. We’ve repeatedly tried to publicize this matter. Three years a book by my daughter Anahit Khosroev (the youngest PHD at the National Academy) entitled The Assyrian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey and Adjacent Turkish-Populated Areas, was published. This academic publication was one of the first works to be devoted to the Assyrian massacres. Interestingly enough, there were many in the academic community who were uninformed as to this reality. Even Richard Hovhannisian was taken aback and proved to be the first one to invite Anahit to give a series of lectures on the subject in the United States. Our concern is that Armenia raises the issue of these two genocides jointly in international tribunals.

Assyrians, just like Armenians, first set about building a church and their homes afterwards. In Verin Dvin, there’s a working church grounded upon the Nestorian faith. What is the state of relations between the Nestorian Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church?

For Assyrians, as for Armenians, are the most important factors when it comes to self-preservation. There are some 4 million Assyrians living throughout the world today but we’re split into 7 religious branches. You frequently run into people overseas who speak perfect Assyrian but when asked regarding their identity they’ll respond by saying, “I’m not Assyrian. I am a Chaldean or Jacobite” In terms of literature, all books and periodicals are published in the same dialect of Urmia, that more than 400 years has served as the literary version of the Assyrian language. Offshoots, naturally serve to divide the nation. The Holy Tovmas Church in Verin Dvin, which was rebuilt five years ago, is the only functioning Assyrian Church in Armenia today. It was originally constructed in the 19th century out of clay and was near totally in ruins.

In 2001, when the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia was being celebrated, I proposed to the Catholicos that a joint observance be organized and that the reconstruction of the Assyrian Church be included in the itinerary. He declined and explained that the Apostolic Church didn’t maintain relations with the Nestorian Church. This despite the fact that the Khalt and Yacubian Churches are sister churches with the Apostolic Church. But isn’t it true that religious history intimately binds the Armenian and Assyrian peoples? Prior to the creation of the Armenian alphabet and the translation of the Bible into Armenian, Aramaic was the language for conducting religious services in the Armenian Church. Hakob of Mtsbin (the first person in history who attempted to climb Mount Ararat), who traveled to Armenia with Gregory the Enlightener, and who built numerous churches and schools, was an Assyrian. Bishop Daniel, Zenob Glak and Yeprem Asori were all Assyrian as well.

Nevertheless, how did you go about rebuilding the church?

During the 1700th anniversary celebrations a woman from Switzerland, who was a specialist in eastern churches, approached me. It turned out that she remembered me from one of our theater’s stage tours in Switzerland where I performed in a production of Chekhov’s  “Three Sisters”. I took her to see the church ruins and it was then that she informed me that she had brought $10,000 to donate to Etchmiadzin but since many people would give money to Armenian Church she offered me the money instead. That’s how we were able to rebuild the church. We then invited Isahak Tamraz, a clergyman from Iraq, to serve in the church. For the first time in eighty years Assyrians living here prayed in their mother tongue.

Have Assyrians living in Armenia retained any national traditions?

Unfortunately not. What I can do is note some traits characteristic to Assyrians such as the work ethic, vindictiveness, and a deep loyalty to family customs. For example, an Assyrian is capable of murdering his wife in a fit of jealous rage but he’ll never divorce her. As regards marriage or other domestic rituals, they are similar to those practiced by Armenians, except for perhaps immaterial differences. For example, wedding gifts presented by relatives and neighbors are collected in the house courtyard, not inside the house. Till recently the Assyrians, just as the Armenians, placed great importance on the wedding dowry. Let me also mention a custom that in my opinion is an enviable one - an Assyrian girl who masters the mother tongue would only bring half the dowry with her. For me, this is a wonderful custom that serves to preserve the national character. Of course, in Armenia today, this custom is not observed. Everyone speaks such excellent Assyrian that who now pays attention to the dowry?

One tradition, nonetheless, has been preserved. Namely, celebrating the New Year on April 1st.

That’s right. We have been observing the New Year on April 1st for 2,670 years now. When the Euphrates and Tigris rivers overflow their banks, the powerful God Marduk who has no equal in the pantheon of Gods, does battle with Tiamat, the God of the Seas, and defeats him. It was on the occasion of this victory that celebrations first began. One of the most important laws of the Code of Hammurabi speaks to this matter. For fifteen days it was not allowed to punish children, the courts were not in session, one could not punish slaves - everyone was happy, singing and dancing, and praising Marduk.The king abdicated the throne. The rich undertook charitable good deeds. All became equal. These celebrations are called “The Impetuous Days”. When the Assyrians adopted Christianity this pagan holiday, along with many others, was preserved.

Mr. Razmik Khosroev is the father of the well-known Assyrian professor and Genocide scholar, Ms. Anahit Khosroyeva who has worked extensively on the causes and effects of the 1915 Genocide of the Assyrians, Armenians, and Greeks.  To read Prof Khostoyeva's article in Zinda Magazine, "The Assyrians Surviving Genocide After World War I" click here.

The Bible Revisited- Part I

Ann-Margret “Maggie” Yonan

Many individuals, religious groups and biblical scholars have been fascinated with the Bible for the last two thousand years, depending on their literary, historical, or religious interest.

The five books of Moses, (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) which constitute the Pentateuch, (meaning the five scrolls in Greek) known as the Torah in Hebrew, have been the subject of much debate, and biblical scholars have conducted hundreds of investigations to determine whether or not Moses did indeed write them, as the ancient world came to believe for so long.   Nowhere does the Bible say Moses wrote the five books that have come to be known as “The Books of Moses.”   Then how is it that we came to believe Moses wrote these books, and why are they called the Books of Moses?

Many of the investigations that have been conducted over a period of six hundred years, have enabled us to understand what prompted these beliefs to begin with, and how each scholarly investigation led to a different stage

The first stage of investigation into the Bible began in the eleventh century, when most everyone still believed and accepted that Moses wrote the five books, but the investigators suggested that a few lines were added here and there.   This debate was mostly initiated by Isaac Ibn Yashush, a Jewish Court physician in Muslim Spain, who pointed out that a list of Edomite kings that appears in Genesis 36 names kings who lived long after Moses was dead, suggesting the writer of the Pentateuch lived after Moses.    The response to his conclusion was that Abraham Ibn Ezra, a twelfth-century Rabbi called him “Isaac the blunderer,” and recommended that his book be burned!   But amazingly enough, Abraham seemed to have his own doubts about who wrote these five books, and alluded that some of the Biblical passages appeared not to be written by Moses’ own hands because they referred to Moses in the third person, using terms that Moses would not have used, describing places that Moses would not have been familiar with, and using language that suggested another time in which Moses had not lived.   Ibn Ezra was not willing to state these opinions in public, and thus wrote, “If you understand, then you will recognize the truth.”   In another note relating to some contradictory passages, he wrote, “And he who understands will keep silent.”

In the fourteenth century Damascus, the scholar Bonfils accepted Ibn Ezra’s evidence, but was not willing to keep silent.   He wrote, “And this is evidence that this verse was written in the Torah later, and Moses did not write it, rather, one of the later prophets wrote it.”   Then in the fifteenth century, Tostatus, Bishop of Avila also stated that certain passages, mainly, the death of Moses, could not have been written by Moses, and that perhaps Joshua, Moses’ successor wrote it.   But by the sixteenth century, Carlstadt, a contemporary of Luther, stated that the account of Moses’ death was written in the same style as texts that precede it.    This meant that Joshua could not have merely added some lines to a Mosaic manuscript, and raised the questions about what exactly was Mosaic and what was added by someone else.

In the second stage of the process, the investigators suggested that Moses wrote the five books but that editors went over them later, adding occasional phrases of their own.    In the sixteenth century, Andreas Van Maes, a Flemish Catholic, and two Jesuit scholars, Benedict Pereira and Jacques Bonfrere, thought that Moses did write the original texts but that later on, writers expanded upon them.
In the third stage of the investigation, scholars concluded outright that Moses did not write the Pentateuch.   The first to say it was Thomas Hobbes, a British philosopher in the seventeenth century.   Hobbes collected examples of cases where some text would read, “to this day.”   This suggested that these were phrases of later writers who are describing something that endured over a period of time.   Four years later, Isaac de la Pyrere, a French Calvinist who openly declared that it was certain that Moses did not write the five books of the Bible, citing a verse in Deuteronomy which states, “These are the words that Moses spoke to the children of Israel across the Jordan.”   De la Pyrere pointed out that these words appeared to be written by someone in Israel, across the waters of the river Jordan, and Moses had never been to Israel in his life.   De la Pyrere’s book was burned and banned, and he was arrested and told that he would have to become Catholic and recant his views to the Pope, and he did!

At around the same time, the philosopher Spinoza, in Holland, published a critical analysis, outlining the problematic passages, and demonstrating they were not isolated incidents that could be explained one by one.   On the contrary, they were pervasive throughout all five books of Moses.   These were the third person accounts of Moses, which Moses would have never said.   For example, in Deuteronomy 34, there is a sentence that reads, “There never arose a prophet in Israel like Moses.”   This would obviously indicate that it was someone who lived long after Moses, to be able to qualify such a statement.   Spinoza was excommunicated from Judaism and condemned by Protestants as well as Catholics.   His book was placed on the Catholic index, thirty seven edicts were issued against it, and an attempt was made on his life.

A short time after that, Richard Simon, a French protestant who had converted to become a Catholic priest, published a book intended to be critical of Spinoza, in which he declared that the Pentateuch had been written by Moses, but some scribes had collected, organized, and elaborated upon the old texts.   According to Simon, these scribes had been prophets, guided by the divine spirit.   His contemporaries did not want to hear that any part of the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, so he was also attacked and dismissed from his ministerial order.   His book was also put on the Catholic Index and he was imprisoned in the tower.

Apparently Simon’s idea that writers of the Pentateuch had assembled these texts out of old sources at their disposal, was an important step on the way to discovering who wrote the Bible, to the extent that it prepared the way to deal with a new item of evidence that was developed in the following century, by three different investigators:   The doublet.   Simply put, the doublets were the same stories being told twice and in a different manner throughout the five books of Moses.   There are two different stories of creation, two different stories of the covenant between God and Abraham, two different stories of naming Isaac, the son of Abraham, two different stories of Jacob’s revelation at Beth-El, two stories of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel, two different stories of Moses getting water from a rock at a place called Meribah, and two different stories of the flood, etc.    The most common two different stories were that of God’s name.   In one story he was referred to as Yahweh, (the mispronounced Jehovah) and in the other story referring to the deity as simply “God,” or Elohim   The doublets lined up into two groups of parallel versions of stories, and each group was almost always consistent about the name of the deity it used.    This supported the hypothesis that someone had taken two different old documents, cut them up and pasted them together to form the stories of the Bible.   In this manner, the next stage came at a time in which Biblical scholars went about separating the strands of the two old source documents.

In the eighteenth century, three independent investigators arrived at the same conclusion based on such studies.   A German minister named H.B. Witter, a French medical doctor named Jean Astruc, and a German professor named J.G. Eichhorn.   At first, it was thought that one of the versions of the stories in Genesis was an ancient text, written by Moses himself.  Later, they thought that both versions were from old sources that Moses had used to write his work.   Eventually, however, they concluded that both of these sources had to come from writers who lived after Moses.   As their investigations developed further, each step of the process was leading less and less to Moses himself.

Around the turn of the nineteenth century, this two-source hypothesis was expanded into four!   In other words, there were not just doublets, but triplets, then quadruplets.   This came about when a young German scholar, W.M.L. De Wette, in his dissertation, hypothesized that the fifth book of the five books of Moses, (Deuteronomy) was different in language from the other four books.

Now we had a working hypothesis by which we can move forward and open the book of Genesis and be able to identify the writings of two, or even three authors on the same page.   At this stage scholars knew there was also an editor, (a cutter and paster) who combined the source documents into a single story, and as many as four different authors who contributed to one page of the Bible.   Still, no one knew for sure who these authors were, when they lived, why they wrote, and who this editor that combined them was, and why he combined them in the way he did, rather than re-write them.

The evidence, thus far, revealed that four different source documents were combined into one continuous history.   The four documents were given an alphabet name.   The document that was associated with the divine name of Yahweh/Jehovah was called J.   The document that referred to the divine as GOD, (Elohim) was called E.   The third document that dealt largely with legal sections and priests was called P.   The source that was found strictly in Deuteronomy was called D.

The question now was, how to uncover the history of these documents, who wrote them, what time period they lived, why four different versions, and did each writer know of the other’s existence, how they were preserved, and how they were combined?   The first step was to try to uncover the order in which they were written, and what stages of religious development in Israel did they reflect.   This approach was the nineteenth century Hegelian method of Historical development of civilization.   Two major investigators stand out in this period:  One of them was Carl Heinrich Graf, who tried to uncover the order these texts were written, and the other, Wilhelm Vatke, who tried to trace the development of ancient Israel’s religion, attempting to separate early from late stages of the religion.

Graf concluded that the J and E documents were the oldest version of the biblical stories, in so far as they were not aware of matters that were treated in other documents, and that D was later than J and E.   Vatke, on the other hand concluded that J and E reflected a very early stage in the development of the Israelite religion, when it was based on nature/fertility, and that D reflected the stage at which the religion of the Israelites was based on the prophets, (the spiritual/ethical stage).   He regarded the P document as that which reflected the latest stage of Israel’s religious development, which was priestly, based on priests, ritual, sacrifices, and law.

Both of these two works of Vatke and Graf pointed in the same direction, which proved that the laws and most of the narratives have nothing to do with the times in which Moses lived, much less written by Moses, not even of life in Israel in the days of prophets, and kings of Israel.   They were documents written by someone who lived toward the end of the biblical period.

At this point in time, scholars had reached the conclusion that biblical Israel as a nation was not governed by law for its first six centuries, but Vatke’s and Graf’s works came to dominate biblical studies for a hundred years primarily because of one man’s work.   This man was Julius Wellhausen, who lived from 1844-1918 and who did extensive research into biblical scholarship.   Wellhausen brought the works of all other investigators together and organized them into a comprehensive thesis.

Wellhausen accepted Vatke’s idea of Israel’s religious development in three stages, as well as Graf’s conclusion that the documents had been written in three different stages, and he put the two pictures together.   His conclusions were the same as Vatke’s and Graf’s.

Wellhausen began to examine why these various sources existed and his theory of the combination of the two sources began to gain acceptance, and came to be known as the Documentary Hypothesis.   In the English speaking countries, the documentary Hypothesis owed a lot of credit to William Robertson Smith, professor of Old Testament in Scotland, because he was the well-respected editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  

Things began to change in the twentieth century because of Pope Pius XII encouraging scholars to pursue the history of the writers of these documents, to the extent he thought they were “the living and reasonable instrument of the Holy Spirit.”   As a result, the Catholic Jerome Biblical Commentary arrived on the scene in 1968, one of the many books, journals, and articles dealing with biblical studies and contributing to modern theological pursuits.

Before 1200 B.C. when the region that came to be known as Israel, was a land inhabited by many nationalities, among which were the Canaanites, the Hittites,  the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Gorgashites, and the Jebusites.   The Philistines also shared that land, but they originally came from the Greek Islands.

The land in which the Israelites lived was bordered by Phoenicia in the north.  On the Eastern border to the north was Syria, then Ammon, then Moab, then Edom to the south.   The 13 tribes of Israel were the largest population in that region, from the twelfth century B.C. on.   In addition to the bordering countries, there were influences from Egypt and Mesopotamia.  

The dominant religion of the region was paganism, which many to this day believe is idol-worshiping.   This view was formerly held until the immense archaeological findings gave mankind a better understanding of the pagan religion, and proved that it was not idol-worshipping as a Babylonian tablet points out.   The discoveries at Nineveh alone, which unearthed 50,000 tablets, and in the Canaanite city of Ugarit three thousand more were found, revealing that paganism was a religion of nature, worshipping the sky, the storm, the sun, the sea, and the wind, etc. and it was due to the people being and feeling close to nature.   We can compare the statues of these ancients to the icons of Mary and Jesus, found in churches today, but this does not mean they worshipped these icons rather they served to remind the people of the deity’s presence.  

The chief pagan god perceived in the Canaan region where all these nationalities lived, was EL.   El was male, patriarchal, and ruler over the people.   He sat at the head of the council of the gods, (the Elohim) and pronounced the council’s decision.    In the northern region of Canaan, where it became known as Israel, and where the majority of the population lived, the Israeli god eventually became known as Yahweh, also male, patriarchal, and ruler over the people.   To date, we do not know where the word Yahweh came from, but as biblical scholars point out repeatedly, it comes from YHWH, translated erroneously as “he is who he is, or “I am that I am” and other such unreliable meanings.   In Exodus 3:13-15 supposedly Moses asks God what is his name that sends him to speak to the children of Israel, and God says to Moses, “Eheya Asher Eheyeh” translated by the Western translators as “Asher” and written in Arabic as Ashar, but could this be the Akkadian word, ASHUR, the name of the Assyrian God?  
Biblical scholars always write, “The People of Israel spoke Hebrew,” but no one has ever been able to define what it is exactly.   Is it a language of the people who lived in Hebron?   If so, what did the other tribes speak, who did not live in Hebron?   As we know the Jews use the Ashuri (Assyrian) script to write, thus how was that different from “Hebrew?”
Among the other nationalities that shared the region of Canaan, Phoenician, Ugarit, Aramaic, and Moabite was spoken.   The people in those times wrote documents on papyrus, and sealed them with a stamp pressed in clay.   They also wrote on leather, clay tablets, and even stone and plaster.

There are traditions about the prehistory of the Israelites, but none that have been proven through archaeology.   According to biblical scholars, the first point at which we actually begin to have sufficient evidence to picture a life of the biblical community is the twelfth century B.C., when the Israelites became established in this territory.

The Israelites’ political life was organized around tribes.   According to biblical tradition, there were thirteen tribes.   Twelve of them each had a distinct geographical territory.   The thirteenth, the tribe of Levi, was a priestly group.   The members of the Levi tribe lived in cities in the other tribe’s territories.   Each tribe had their own chosen leader.    There were others who acquired authority through their positions in society, among which, were judges and priests.   The office of judges involved legal matters and military issues.   Judges and prophets could be male or female, whereas priests only males.   Usually the priests had to be from the tribe of Levi and their office was hereditary.   They presided over religious sites, and conducted religious ceremonies, which was mostly sacrifices.   Being a prophet did not require a special office.   A person from any background could become a prophet, male or female.
The age of judges culminated with the prophet Samuel, who was considered to be a judge, a priest, and a prophet.   He lived in Shiloh, a city in the northern part of the land of Canaan, and a major religious center at the time.   According to biblical accounts, a tabernacle was located there which supposedly housed the “ark of the covenant” containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments.   A distinguished priestly family lived in Shiloh, and some believed they were descendants of Moses.   When the Philistine domination of the land became overwhelming, the people sought a leader, who could unite the tribes as a king.   Samuel anointed the first king of Israel, King Saul.   This was the beginning of the Israeli monarchy, and although there were to be no more judges, there continued to be priests and prophets.

A king needed the support of the priests in order to gain the respect of the people, and to generate an army.   There was no separation of religion and state, so that when Saul overstepped his bounds with the priests, Samuel anointed another king, David, who was the ruler of the tribe of Judah.  Saul enraged, had all the priests of Shiloh massacred, except for one, which escaped.   Saul reigned over the northern Kingdom, whereas David was ruler over his southern kingdom of Judah.   Saul maintained the northern throne until his death, when the kingdom was split in half between Saul’s son Ishbaal in the north, and King David in the south, ruling over his own tribe of Judah, which was the largest of the tribes put together.   When Ishbaal was assassinated, David became king over the entire country, north and south.    King David established a long line of Davidic kingship descended from him.   The Davidic dynasty became the longest ruling family of any country in the history, and established the messiah tradition of both Judaism and Christianity.

King David united the two kingdoms and moved his capital from Hebron, (which was the principle city of Judah) to Jerusalem.   Jerusalem had been occupied by the Jebusites, before David conquered the city, therefore it was not affiliated with any of the tribes of Israel, hence did not offend any of the competing tribes.   David’s second action was to appoint two priests to represent the unity of the two kingdoms:   His northern priest was Abiathar, who was the only priest that had escaped the Shiloh priestly massacre     David’s southern priest was Zadok, who came from David’s former capital city of Hebron in Judah.   Zadok and his priestly order were regarded as descendents of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.   Hence, David’s two priests represented both respected priestly families:   The family of Moses and the family of Aaron.

David established a professional army, no longer depending on the individual tribes to muster soldiers.   By one military campaign after another, David successfully brought Moab, Ammon, and maybe even Syria, under his dominion.   He built a large dynasty and made Jerusalem both the political as well as the religious center of his empire.   He brought the “ark of the covenant” there and established his priests there as well.   David married many women and had many children, all of whom contended for the throne.   But in his old age, David chose Solomon, the son of his favorite wife, Bathsheba, to succeed him.

Biblical sources, in order to embellish Solomon’s wealth, suggest that Solomon had nearly 700 wives and 300 concubines.   He married women for political alliances.    The Bible also tells us that Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, in which he placed the ark.   The interior of the temple was divided into two rooms, an outer room called the Holy, and an inner chamber called the Holy of Holies.   The Holy of Holies was a perfect cube, twenty cubits long, wide and high.   In it were two tremendous statues, which could be best described as winged-bulls, like the Assyrian lamasus.   They were the throne platform of Yahweh.  The ark, containing the Ten Commandments was placed under the Lamasu’s open wings, (which made a tent).   Solomon received help for building the temple at Jerusalem as well as his palace from Hiram of Tyre, king of the Phoenicians, who was Solomon’s father-in-law.   Hiram provided Solomon the cedars of Lebanon and 120 talents of gold.   In return, Solomon gave Hiram a tract of the northern Israelite territory containing twenty cities.   In this manner, Solomon was building up his own capital at the expense of the north.

Solomon’s domestic and foreign policy threatened the unity of his kingdom.   Moreover, Solomon established twelve administrative districts, each of which was to provide for the court in Jerusalem for one month of the year.   The boundaries of these districts did not correspond with the boundaries of the twelve tribes.     He personally appointed the heads of each administrative district, which were in opposition to the twelve heads of the tribes.   He also instituted the missim system, a sort of labor tax, in which each citizen owed a month of work for the government, each year.   This was seen by the people as the same system the Egyptians imposed on the Jews in Egypt, when they were made into labor slaves.    Consequently, Solomon was barely holding on to the kingdom, facing resentments and hostilities.

When Solomon dies, his son Rehoboam succeeded him, and he didn’t have the skills of his father to keep the kingdom together.   When Rehoboam went to Shechem, a major northern city for his coronation, the northern leaders asked him if he intended to carry out his father’s policies.    His answer was yes.   They rebelled against him and stoned to death his officer in charge of missim, a signal that they would not be in bondage as they were in Egypt.    Rehoboam only ruled Judah, the southern part of the kingdom.   The rest of Israel chose Jeroboam as their king.   David’s empire now was split again:  Israel in the north, and Judah in the south.   Rehoboam ruled from Jerusalem, the city of David, and Jeroboam made Shechem the capital of the new northern kingdom.   They still shared a common religion, in which both worshipped Yahweh, but the country was divided politically.   The temple, the ark, the chief priests were all located in Jerusalem,   This meant that on holidays and special occasions, masses of Jeroboam’s population would have to go the city of David, pray and sacrifice at the temple of Solomon, and they would have to see the king Rehoboam, and this did not please Jeroboam.   Jeroboam could not make up a new religion, to keep the people from going to Jerusalem.   But he could establish for his new kingdom its own national version of the common religion.   The kingdom of Israel like the kingdom of Judah went on to worship Yahweh, but Jeroboam established new religious centers, new holidays, new priests, and new symbols of the religion.   The new religious centers that were to replace Jerusalem were Beth-El and Dan.   His new symbol of the religion became two golden calves, which replaced the Lamasus in Jerusalem.   Calves in Hebrew translated into “young bulls,” and they were associated with El, the chief of the Canaanite gods, who was referred to as “Bull El.”   This gesture of Jeroboam affiliated Yahweh with El.   This might have meant to give the people the impression that Jeroboam was uniting the two kingdoms religiously, by implying that Yahweh and El were one.   Jeroboam set-up one of the golden calves in Beth-El and one in Dan, signaling that God is enthroned over the entire kingdom, from the north to the south.

The northern Levites had suffered humiliation and betrayal, because many of them lived in the cities given to Hiram, and of all of them, the priests from Shechem had suffered the most.    They had previously held high positions in society but now were out of power in Jerusalem.   This made them feel betrayed and excluded, especially when Jeroboam did not appoint them at Beth-El or Dan.   They had no place in Jeroboam’s new religion, and they condemned the golden calves as heresy.   The nation was now more divided religiously than ever before, and the political situation was deteriorating rapidly, as the age of empires was coming to the forefront.   This left Israel and Judah vulnerable to powerful nations like Egypt and Assyria.

In Israel, the monarchy was unstable, and the kingdom lasted only two hundred years.   Then Assyria conquered it in 722 B.C. deporting many Israelites into the Assyrian empire.   The exiled Israelites have come to be known as the 10 lost tribes of Israel.

In Judah, on the other hand, the monarchy had been extremely stable, and one of the longest reigning dynasties known in history, which is most likely why Judah survived one hundred years past the destruction of Israel.

During the two hundred years in which these two kingdoms lived side by side, there lived two of the writers that have been identified as J and E.   Each of these writers composed their own version of the history of their people, and both versions became part of the Bible.   These two versions describe some of the same events, but in different order.

Two of the writers of the first two sources, J and E, lived during those times described thus far.    The writer of E came from Israel because he was concerned by matters that occurred in Israel, while the writer of J came from Judah because he was concerned with the events in Judah.   Moreover, the group of stories that invoke the name of Elohim are all the tribes of Israel, which lost their territories and merged with other tribes, while the group of stories that invoke the name of Yahweh are the Judah tribe, the only tribe that maintained its territory.

Biblical scholars have tried to sort the history behind the two different versions of the doublets, as well as their writers, to try to identify these authors as well as their motives for writing what they did.   They nearly always begin with the story of the two golden calves in which Aaron tells the people, “these are your Gods, Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”    In the meantime, Moses is supposedly on Mount Sinai, speaking to God and God tells him what the people are doing below.   God tells Moses that he will destroy the people for worshipping other gods, and that he will start a new people descended from Moses.   Moses pleads with god not to destroy his people, and God relents.   When Moses comes down the mountain, and he sees the golden calves, he becomes angry and smashes the Ten Commandments.   The question is why the writer of this story would depict the people as rebellious against their God Yahweh, especially at a time when they had just been delivered from Egyptian bondage?   According to most scholars, the reason being is that the writer of E is a Levite priest from Shiloh, a descendant of Moses, which is why he makes Moses a hero and deliverer of his people  out of Egypt, and a superior priest, chosen by god to lead them to the promised land..   Based on all the evidence and history which points to the priests of Shiloh’s suffering immensely under Solomon, having had their chief priest, Abiathar, expelled from Jerusalem, and their lamasus replaced by the golden calves, the writer of E was resentful of Aaron’s priestly order, (the Levites of Judah) which is why he wrote negatively about them.   The E document was written before the Assyrian conquest.  

Israel falls in 722 B.C. and the 10 tribes of Israel are deported to various parts of the Assyrian Empire, forcing those who fled this conquest to become refugees in Judah.

The J writer, however, was a priest descendant from Aaron’s priestly order, favors Judah, and only has allegiance to Yahweh, which leads him to write his own version of the stories found in the Pentateuch.   Hence, the writer of J never mentions the tabernacle, and he focuses on God leading his people out of bondage, instead of Moses.   The evidence we have thus far points to the J version being written after the Assyrian conquest.

These two different versions of the same book led to three separate investigations to find out who these two writers were and who cut and pasted these stories together so cleverly to make one continuous story.  

The third writer, D, writes the book of Deuteronomy.   Deuteronomy is a collection of history from Moses to the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians, in 587 B.C.   The D writer however, states that the kingdom is eternal, and tried to unite the two kingdoms as one.   D wrote the beginning of his people’s history, flowing through the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.    He makes King Josiah righting all the wrongs of Aaron, Solomon, and Jeroboam, and the culmination of three centuries.  This means at the end of the destruction of the two kingdoms, the E writer comes back as D.   The D writer takes all the stories from the day his people arrived in the land, the stories of Joshua, Jericho, the conquest, and made it into the book of Joshua.   He took the stories of the people’s early years, the stories of Deborah, Gideon, and Samson, and made it into the book of Judges.    He placed the stories of Samuel at Shiloh, and told the stories of Saul and David, (the first kings) and it became the book of Samuel I.   He set the court history of King David and this became Samuel 2.     He then took the stories of kings who came after David and put it into one continuous story till the time of Josiah.   This became Kings I and II.

The Deuteronomist also made it clear that the temple in Jerusalem became the central place of worship where God’s name dwelt.   He made his people’s history try to show fidelity to Yahweh, and that the covenant was with the Davidic line, and focused on the Torah.   He also alluded to the fact that the kingdom split because Solomon forsook Yahweh and his Torah.   He also maintains that David’s line retained Jerusalem and Judah because God made unconditional covenant promise to David.   He asserts that the kingdom of Israel fell because Jews did not follow the Torah, and were exiled because they had worshipped other gods and broken the first commandment, (Thou shall not worship other Gods).   All this he wrote while in exile.  

Scholars now agree that there was a second Deuteronomist who wrote that it was not the kings’ fault but the people’s actions and infidelity to their own covenant with God that brought the Jews and their kingdoms down.   The second Deuteronomist also stated that the throne now was always available, should a messiah come and rule justly.   This became the central element of Christianity and Judaism.


Scholars now maintain that it was Jeremiah who dictated D1 and D2 plus the book of Jeremiah to Baruch, who wrote all three.    They cite evidence of the seal found in 1980 declaring, “Belonging to Baruch, son of Neriyeh the scribe.” written in the late seventh and early sixth century B.C.   The only convincing argument may be that because Baruch did go into exile with Jeremiah, and that he is mentioned several times in the Bible as writing for Jeremiah.   Biblical scholars claim this is sufficient proof of his authorship of the eight books of the Old Testament.  

The J writer never mentions man is created in God’s image in the Garden of Eden story, while the P writer never speaks of talking snakes or powerful plants.   The writers of J, E, and D source documents picture god in a personal way, on earth, taking visible forms, speaking and debating with humans, while the P source focuses on the cosmic picture, and God as Yahweh.   In the P source, obedience is rewarded, transgression is punished, whereas J and E source document writers focus on divine aspect of mercy, where transgression is forgiven by repentance, through Moses’ plea and God’s relenting, while in P there’s no pleading from Moses.   P focuses on divine justice but J, E, and D focus on divine mercy.

According to modern biblical scholars, Ezra joined these stories together, consequently Ezra is the R, (Redactor) who was an advocate of Aaronoid priests and who rose to leadership position after Cyrus the Great returned the Israelites back to their lands.   Ezra is thus the man who preserves all these writers’ works for millennia.

So far we have given some insight into the motivation of many of the figures who played a part in writing the Bible, as well as some of the reasons behind writing what they did, but we have yet to discuss whether or not there were real prophets in Israel, whether or not any of their prophecies came true, what archaeology has uncovered in recent years, and whether or not the archaeological evidence validates the biblical narration.   Furthermore, we have not yet fully explored the question whether or not the ark of the covenant containing the Ten Commandments really existed, whether or not there was a Jewish Exodus out of Egypt, what role if any, did the Assyrians play in the cultural and religious development of the Israelites, and if the Bible was a direct response to religious fundamentalism, as opposed to actual and real history of a nation.   These and many other questions will be explored in the next article, part II.


Addis, W. E. Documents of the Hexateuch, London, 1982
Allbright, William Foxwell. The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra.   New York: Harper, 1961
Alt, Albrecht.   Essays on Old Testament History and Religion, Garden city, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966
Bacon, Benjamin W.   The Genesis of Genesis.   Hartford, 1982
Bright, John.   A History of Israel, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981.
Cheyne, T.K.   Founders  of Old Testament Criticism.   London: Methuen, 1893.
Fohrer, Georg.   Introduction to the Old Testament.   Nashville:  Abingdon, 1968.
Grant, Robert M.   A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible.   New York:   Macmillan, 1948.
Gray, Edward M.   Old Testament Criticism.   New York:   Harper, 1932.
Hahn, E.   The Old Testament in Modern Research.   Philadelphia:   Fortress, 1966.
Halpern, Baruch.   The Constitution of Monarchy of Israel.   Harvard Semitic Monographs.   Decatur, Ga.:   Scholars Press, 1981
Haran, Menahem.   “The Priestly Image of the Tabernacle.”   Hebrew Union College Annual 36 (1965): 191-226
Hermann, S.   A History of Israel in Old Testament Times.   Philadelphia:   Fortress, 1975
Hobbes, Thomas.   Leviathan, Part 3, Chapter 33, 1651.
Hyatt, J.P.   “Torah in the Book of Jeremiah.”   Journal of Biblical Literature 60 (1941): 381-96.
Levenson, Jon.   “Who Inserted the Book of the Torah?”   Harvard Theological Review 68 (1975): 203-33.
Nelson, Richar.   The Double Redaction of the Deuteronomistic History.   JSOT Supplement Series.   Sheffield, 1981.
Rendsburg, G.   “Late Biblical Hebrew and the Date of P.”   Journal of the Near East Society 12 (1980): 65-80.
Shiloh, Yigal.   Excavations at the City of David, vol. 1.   Jerusalem:   Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, 1984.
Wright, George Ernest, ed.  The Bible and the Ancient Near East.   Garden City:   N. Y.:     Double Day, 1961.

”Getting at the Roots of Wellhausen’s Understanding of the Law of Israel on the 100th Anniversary of Prolegomena.”   Report No. 14/79, Jerusalem:   Institute for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University, 1979.
”The Priestly Redaction and Interpretation of the Plague Narrative in Exodus.”   Jewish Quarterly Review 66 (1976): 193-211.
”The Laws in the Pentateuch.   Edinburgh:   Oliver and Boyd, 1966.
”Shiloh and Jerusalem:   The Origin of the Priestly Tradition in the Pentateuch.”   Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962): 14-24.
”Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel, New York:   Oxford, 1978.

Halpern, Baruch.   Sacred History and Ideology:   Chronicles’ Thematic Structure-Indications of an Earlier Source.” In Richard Elliot Friedman, ed. The Creation of Sacred Literature.

R,J. Thompson.   Moses and the Law in a Century of Criticism Since Graf, pp. 42f.

Assyrians at Their Best

Journey of a Letter for Tomorrow

Courtesy of the Turkish Daily News
27 October 2007
By Onur Burçak Belli

A man on a seemingly impossible mission to save the script of his people from becoming extinct, Gabrial Aktaş, the last Syriac calligrapher in Turkey, is almost 70.

He is no longer capable of spending hours at his desk copying old Fankitos, the handwritten religious books of Syriacs, who are the oldest indigenous settlers of Mesopotamia in eastern Turkey. He started copying the four Fankitos in 2001. It took him 13 months to finish the first one, whereas the second one was finished in 15 months.

Aktaş talks of how he started copying them with a sparkle in his eyes. “When I finished the first Fankito, I looked at it. It was not very good,” he said. “My intention was not to become a calligrapher. I wanted to pass them to the future. But then I thought, ‘why not better my handwriting?' So people will remember there was Gabriel, from the Bakisyan village of Mardin.”

Syriac is one of the three oldest among 6,700 languages currently spoken around the world. Nearly 5,000 of them are expected to disappear by the end of this century. The threat is all too real for Syriac, which is used only by 1 percent of 15,000 Syriacs in Turkey today. However, Syriac has a special place among the thousands of languages that are faced with the threat of extinction. It is one of the few languages that has a written literature. The critical condition of the language is brought to light through a documentary titled “The Light Looks for Its Voice” (Işık Sesini Arıyor) by Hakan Aytekin, a lecturer at Maltepe University's Department of Radio, Television and Cinema.

Wind of yearning

Aytekin's journey through Syriac culture started with a letter to the Turkish national television channel TRT's music program, sent by İsa Bakır, a Dutch citizen of Turkish origins. Bakır, in 1992, requested a song called Wind of Yearning (Hasret Rüzgarı), from renowned folk music artist, Orhan Gencebay. A friend of Aytekin found the letter in a garbage can and gave it to Aytekin. “İsa Bakır's yearning for the lands he had to leave was incredibly impressive,” said Aytekin while telling the story of how he felt about Bakır. “I understood that Bakır was a Syriac. It was hidden between the lines of his letter. I realized that how little I know about them. So I started to collect anything I found related to the Syriacs,” he said.

After he read the letter, he wrote to Bakır. “But of course there was no answer,” said Aytekin emphasizing how closed a community the Syriacs are. His letter had become a subject for the media, therefore famous. An acquaintance of Bakır wrote to him and informed him of Bakır's new address. He wrote to him once again, “but no answer yet again.” It took a year for Bakır to reply.

“How you and your letter resemble each other. While you are abandoned, away from your homeland, I see you sharing a common fate with your thrown, corrugated letter,” Aytekin had written to Bakır. In the meantime, Aytekin discovered that Syriac, the language of a community that has a 5,500-year history in these lands, also shares a fate with Bakır and his letter. Aytekin and Bakır had become pen friends and kept writing to each other for a long time. Later, Aytekin decided to write a book for those “who have fallen away from their trees.”

A culture condemned to die

“When I finished writing, I realized that without a version in Syriac it was meaningless to publish it,” said Aytekin, “But who was going to translate it?” The process to find someone to translate the book into Syriac happened to be harder than Aytekin anticipated. There was nobody to do it in Turkey and the book ended up in Sweden to be translated by Eliyo Dere. But difficulties were not limited to translation. The next question was how to print it. “No computer could recognize Syriac. Thus, I felt the language disappearing in my veins,” said Aytekin. “It is not only the language. The culture also is fading away. So I decided to try to help it survive.”

This was when Aytekin decided to shoot his documentary, “A Letter for Tomorrow,” to attract attention on the issue. It was after that decision, by pure coincidence that Aytekin met Gabriel Aktaş, the last living master, who continues a time-honored tradition of Syriacs: Calligraphy.

Letters to come together

Aytekin visits eastern cities quite often on his endeavor. It was during one of these journeys to the East, when he met Aktaş. “A man with a child in his heart,” he defined Aktaş, the elderly Syriac clergyman and the hero of “A Letter For Tomorrow.” The documentary is the first film in Syriac.  Neither a word nor the writing solely can define a language, according to Aytekin. So he had to base his story on concrete use of Syriac in daily life to prove it is not only a language that will disappear but a culture, a witness to history will become extinct as well. The film starts with a christening and ends with a funeral, parallel to Aktaş's stories from his life. He tells his story in parts, each of which is symbolized with a letter of the Syriac alphabet from “Olaf” to “Tav.”

Olaf, the first letter of the Syriac alphabet and the first letter of the name of God, is the letter that symbolizes the christening at the beginning. Tav, the last letter, symbolizes the part in the film, when Aktaş says he is not able to write anymore, that he is too old and he is not able to spend time at his desk to copy Fankitos. “I am worried, what will happen to Syriac? What will happen to our old tradition of calligraphy? There is nobody after me to continue,” Aktaş says at the end. “Nobody will be able to read all those papers written in this language and maybe we will lose many important traces in history,” said Aytekin. “So I chose the letters to highlight. A language comes into being, when those letters come together. We have to pass the letters to the future.”

Syriacs and their language

Syriacs are the inheritors of a really strong culture of old Mesopotamia peoples, for who they played an important role while building their civilization. Syriac community's roots in Mesopotamia have a history dating back 5,000 years. For over 5,000 years the beliefs and cultural traditions of the Syriacs have continued to live on in their holy land, located in the southeastern Anatolian region of Turkey, as one of the first people to accept Christianity, they played a prominent role in the promulgation of this religion. However, they have lost their strength and operative efficiency compared to the past because of the suppression of those who invaded the lands they lived on. Nowadays Syriacs, apart from the 15,000 in Turkey, continue their lives separately in different parts of the world. And very few of them can speak and fewer still can read and write in their language, Syriac.

Syriac is an eastern Aramaic language that was once spoken across much of the Mesopotamia. It was a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the second to the eighth century. At its broadest definition, Syriac is often used to refer to all eastern Aramaic languages spoken by various Christian groups and at its most specific, it refers to the classical language of Edessa, which became the liturgical language of Syriac Christianity.

Thank You
The following individuals contributed to the publication of this issue:

André Anton Michigan
Jacklin Bejan California
Alda Benjamin Canada
Dr. Matay Beth Arsan Holland
Mazin Enwiya Chicago
Nahrain E. Kamber California
Nineb Lammasu United Kingdom
Alfred Mansour Australia
Edward Mikhail California
James Y. Rayis Georgia
Benyamin E. Yalda Canada
Fred Youhaneh California

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