Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Abraham

Customs in the Middle East (October 2, 2009)

Note 1:  The term Near East is not familiar to many English readers.  The Near East is the region in the Middle East that comprises Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the coastal shores of Turkey, and the region in Iraq where the Euphrates (Al Furat) River passes through.

It is my contention that the eastern region of the Tiger (Dujlat) River in Iraq was mostly influenced by the Persian culture and civilization. Thus, the geographic limit of the Near East starts from the western side of the Tiger River all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

Note 2:  This post is a repository of the customs and traditions in this region as mentioned in the Bibles (Jewish, Christian, and Moslem). The customs and traditions of the Land in the Levant were practiced thousands of years before Judaism came to be.

The Jewish religion adopted the customs of the Land of the Levant (or what is known as the Near East) and the scribes wrote in the same style of imagery, maxims, and aphorism. The original manuscripts describe accurately the culture of the Land and in the same style.

Note 3: The Bibles are not famous for historical accuracies: they were not written by the dozens of scribes for that purpose.

The Bibles are excellent sources as repositories of the customs and traditions in the Near East, which are still practiced for over six thousand of years.  It has been said that if Abraham and his generation were resurrected they will feel perfectly at home and go about their daily routines and tasks as if they have just waken up from a dream.

Although “modernism” was forced upon the Levant, especially in the urban centers and megalopolis areas, the remote towns and villages have been practically spared and left untouched, even for cooking their weekly load of Levantine bread.  In this article, Near East means the Levant as one Land.

A brief Introduction:

Since time immemorial, the Near East was famous for exporting olive oil, grape wine and dried figs.  No wonder that grape vine, olive trees and fig trees are the symbols of prosperity and shade in this region where it does not rain for straight seven months. The coastal regions of the Levant imported all kinds of grains, especially, wheat and lentil.

The meals are frugal and consisting of thin large loaves of bread (khobz markouk) baked in special underground oven once a week, a few olives, tomatoes, onion, vegetable from the garden, and dried fruits in the off seasons.

Wheat was transformed in crushed wheat (borghol) for the kebeh and tabouli.  Dairy components were cooked into many varieties of cheese, yogurt, labneh, and keshk.  Meat was scarce and a single sheep was over fed during summer to be slaughtered in late autumn and the meat cooked and dried (kaworma) and saved for winter for the omelets.

A couple of goats or cows lived in the basement or a side room and chicken were raised for eggs and for the occasional guests.

Nothing would go to waste and summer time was a hectic period for all kinds of chores related to storing provisions for winter.

On the Written Style

The written style in the Levant is characterized by direct pronouncements expressing feeling and describing what is seen and heard.  The sentences are not encumbered by prefixes such as “I think”, “I believe”, “I am not sure”, “It is possible“, “There might be other versions”, “I might be wrong”, or “It is my opinion”, or what the western writers have adopted from the Greek rational style.

The style in the Levant sounds confident, categorical, and conveying the total truth though it does not mean that the people cannot discriminate or feel the variations and uncertainties.  The writers in the Levant simply feel that all these attachments are redundant since it is a fact of life that nothing is categorical or certain; thus, superfluous additions disturb the flow of thoughts and the ideas that need to be conveyed.  Consequently, the author feels that the western readers of the Bible should tone down their uneasiness with “outrageous” direct and assured pronouncements in the Bible.

On the Verbal Style

The verbal style tends toward the devotional and far from the business approach. The dialect in the Levant reveals the relationship with the Creator is the first of wisdom and spirituality is a foundation.  The recurring mention of God, the provider at the beginning of any reply or “peace of God be upon you” or telling a worker “God gives you health” or to the harvester “God bless your crop” or asking the shepherd “How are the blessed ones?” or saying “What’s its religion?” to get more information on the nature of a thing are all part of the daily utterances.

When the Levantine tells a story he is extravagant and the facts sound too far fetched simply because he wants to amuse and impress; the listener understands perfectly the intent of the fantasy and they share a good laugh.  The rational westerner gets the impression that the Levantine is not honest because he does not stick to the bare boring facts.

For example, when you wake up someone at seven you tell him “Get up, it is already noon and the daylight is over“.  When there is a large gathering we say “The entire town was assembled”.

Jesus said “if your right eye sinned snatched it out; better not your whole body ends up in the eternal fire” or “if someone asks to be clothed give him your robe and underwear too” or “Forgive seventy times seven a day” which drive the holy number seven to an extreme number of holiness; a number that should not be taken to the word but to drive in the message of ready forgiveness.

In the Bibles it is said “After six days” and you wonder starting from which date, which event?  Or it is said “They went up a high mountain” and you want to ask “how high?” and “which mountain?”  If you insist on the height of the mountain he would reply “it was so high it pierced the clouds”

The purpose of the story is to entertain and prepare for the punch line.  For example, John the Baptist is not in the mood of cajoling and says to the Pharisees “Sons of vipers, how will you escape the wrath of God? I tell you if God wished he will turn these stones sons of Abraham

The Levantine is ever ready to swear on his father, his head, his mustaches, and anything that is holy to convey the message of his sincerity.  It is this custom of constant swearing that baffle the westerner and increases his suspicions.  Jesus was aware of this custom and insisted on his disciples never to swear on anything but rather “let your answer be yes, yes or no, no”.  This summoning of Jesus had no effects whatsoever in our Land.

It is important to grasp 4 characteristics in the Levantine customs:

First, every region and every town has its own slang and it is the best proof of your origin. For example, the more Peter denied his knowledge of Jesus the more people were convinced that he was from Galilee. After the battle between the Galaad and the Efrem, prisoners were slaughtered because they pronounced “shiboulat” as “siboulat”.

Second, it is recommended to insist until requests are obtained; for example, Gideon insists on two material miracles from God to believe him; or when Jesus repeats three times “Do you love me Peter?” before he divulges the most important order of “shepherding the flock” of disciples.

Third, insinuation is not understood and abhorred and thus, a clear solemn affirmation is demanded.

Fourth, the Levantine does not appreciate constraining and transition expressions such as “As I see, or I think that, or it is alleged, or it is possible, and so forth”.  The Levantine verbal expression is of certitude and feeling, compatible to his spiritual and devotional nature.

On Business Transactions:

Abraham had no piece of land in Canaan; his clan let their goats and sheep graze in unclaimed lands. As there was a death in the family Abraham resolved to prepare for his burial; he sent a third party to ask Afroun son of Sohar of the tribe of Hath for a small piece of land to bury the dead. Abraham said: “I am a guest in your land. Could you give me a swath so that I may bury what is in front of me?

Every village had a burying ground facing east and guests, by the custom of hospitality, could be enjoying the same facilities. Afroun replied: “Abraham you are a reverend and I shall bury the deceased in the best of our graves” Abraham had set his mind to settle in Canaan and wanted his own burial ground, thus he asked to buy a piece of land.  Afroun replied: “A land of no more than 400 silver shekels should not be an obstacle” Abraham got the hint and sent the amount.

This polite and diplomatic negotiation is part of the Levant customs thousand of years before Abraham came to Canaan.

On Bread and Salt:

In the Levant, women leaven their dough overnight in clay pottery for the next day baking; the baking lasted a whole day for a week ration. The neighboring families would select a day to using the special oven dug in the ground.  The Jews were ordered to leave Egypt immediately.  They carried their unleavened dough in wooden boxes, as done in Egypt, and had to eat their bread barely leavened.  The shepherds in the fields in the Levant cook their own unleavened bread while at work.

Jesus said in the Lord prayer “Lord, give us our daily bread” The people in the Levant believe that their daily bread is not just from their labor; the Lord had participated from start to finish to offering the daily bread.

I cannot help but offer a current and political rapprochement: the successive US Administrations and the media “talking heads” would like us to believe that whatever prosperity is befalling other States it is simply because of US contributions. On the other hand, whatever calamities and miseries the world is suffering should not be laid on the USA: the USA does not bear any responsibility and should not be blamed.

It is the custom for a guest not to eat until he settles his recriminations with the host; thus bread and salt are the symbol of renewed friendship and loyalty.  The worst enemy is the one who shared your bread and salt and then shifted loyalty without any warning.  People never stepped on crumbs of bread (aysh meaning living); they pick up any bread off the ground, kiss it and then place it above ground level.

When Gideon gathered his “large army” to fight the Midyanites, God ordered Gideon to select the soldiers that stooped in front of the stream and drank off the palm of their hands.  That was the custom of the noble citizens in the land; the common people knelt and drank directly off the stream.

Thus, Gideon ended up with 300 soldiers who were deemed courageous, sober, and worthy to fight.

On Handicapped persons:

Handicapped individuals have a hard life in the Levant; they are nicknamed according to their handicaps. Up very recently they were hidden from the public.  In Jesus travels handicapped individuals had hard time approaching Jesus; the crowd would prevent them from coming close because handicaps were considered punishment from God.

A handicapped woman got her courage and dared to touch the robe of Jesus and was cured.  Jesus told her: “Woman, it is your faith and not my cloth that cured you. Go in peace” Jesus was alluding to the custom that touching anything holy would cure or satisfy a want.

On Injustice:

Carrying the cross Jesus said “Sisters of Jerusalem, don’t cry over me.  Those who manhandled moist branches what they wouldn’t do with the dry ones?

If the sacerdotal caste could sentence to death an innocent man then what you, sisters of Jerusalem, expect them to do with you and your children?  You should be starting to cry over your coming miseries and injustices.  Aphorisms on moist things versus dry ones, or bitter versus sweet tasty foods are many in the Levant.

On Animals:

Jesus warned Peter that he would repudiate him three times before the second crow of the cock.  There is a custom in the Levant when guest hear the second crow of the coq to start leaving.  The host has invariably to retort “You guys are mistaken, this is the first crow“. You may search Google for how many times a coq crows per day but in the Levant we maintain that coq crows at sun down, midnight and at dawn.

Jesus said about the surprise visit of sudden death: “Stay awake; you don’t know when the Master of the house will show up; in the evening, at midnight or the last crow of the coq”.

The oriental Christian communities used the nights to pray and watch for the second coming of “Son of God“, (be ready for leaving to the other life)

Pigs are considered the dirtiest and lowest of animals.  When Jesus chased out the demons off a crazy man then the evil spirit entered pigs that rushed to the lake.  The younger son who asked for his inheritance ended up caring for pigs (the lowest job anyone could get) and could not even eat what the pigs ate though he loved “kharoub” which fills the stomach.

On Wheat Grinding:

On the theme of sudden death Jesus recount another aphorism of the Land “Two of you are grinding wheat in a quern (hand mill), one is taken away and the other saved”.  It was the custom for two women friends to undertake the boring task of grinding wheat grain in two circular stone querns; a strong woman could do it alone but it is more fun to pass the time when two are chatting away.

Thus, you can never know when your closest friend will die.  Nowadays, in remote areas, the hand mill or “jaroush” is used to convert wheat grains into crushed wheat which is a staple ingredient to many traditional dishes like “tabouli”, “kebeh, and countless varieties.

On Revelations:

Revelations abound in the Bible to the prophets, Elizabeth, Marie, and many times to Joseph who obeyed and executed the orders promptly.  Revelations are common phenomenon in the Levant.  A family would pay visits to shrines dedicated to a saint for fertility or for kinds of handicaps; the family would stay at the shrine praying and fasting as many nights as necessary until a revelation related to their wishes descends.  The families visit shrines confident that their “demands” would be exhausted.

For example, Hanna, the mother of the Virgin Marie had a revelation that she would be pregnant, so had Elizabeth (Alisabat), the sister of Hanna, who begot John the Baptist, so had Marie who gave birth to Jesus, so did the mother of Melki Sadek, the highest priest of the Land and King of Jerusalem to whom Abraham paid the teethe (tenth of income) as did Isaac and then Jacob, so did the mother of Samuel (Name of El), so had the mother of Jeremiah (Aramia) and countless others.

Those mothers vowed (nezer) their offspring to monasteries that were common in Phoenicia and Galilee.  The offspring who stayed in these monasteries for a large part of their youth were called Nazereen.  Jesus stayed in the monastery of Mount Carmel and administered by the Esseneans, adjacent to the Great Temple, from age 6 until he was in the age of aiding the family earning a living.

That is why Jesus was said to be a Nazarenos or who lived in the region of Galilee of the Nazarenes.  The town of Nazareth did not exist until the second century after Christ and Jesus roamed Lebanon, the ten main cities in Syria and Jordan (Decapolis) while preparing his disciples to spread his message.

On Shepherding and Faith

Jesus said “I am the good shepherd who is ready to sacrifice for his sheep”. The shepherding was the oldest and most common job in the Levant and people learned leadership, and enjoyed freedom and solitude.  The shepherd, during the extended dry season, would lead his flock “the blessed ones” to the upper lands for grazing by mid March as the sheep or goat gave birth.

The shepherd would carry the new born and the mothers would follow him, confident in her shepherd.  The shepherd would arrange a stockade (hazeera) of stones about 5 feet high and top it with brambles and sleep at the entrance in a makeshift tent with his dog. “The truth is anyone who does not enter the stockade by the entrance is a thief; the shepherd enters from the door and the sheep hear his voice and their names and they go out to graze” because the stockade could be climbed with minor scratches.

By mid October, the shepherd dismantles his stockade and moves his flock to lower altitudes where the sheep are horded in a one room basement (mrah) with no windows; Isaiah said: “My residence was dismantled and taken away from me as the shepherd tent”

Shepherding requires skills in tight passageway amid the orchards that were not usually fenced.  The shepherd had to pay for whatever the sheep ate if he was unable to control his flock; the town people would not let the shepherd cross the village if they could not trust his guiding skills.  The flock trusted the shepherd because he would ward off wolves and hyenas and even follow the scavenger to its lair to retrieve the sheep or part of it and return it to the flock if alive.

Jesus said: “A shepherd would leave his flock to go after the lost sheep“. The flock is not afraid of narrow hazardous paths taken by the shepherd “the shadow of death valley” because it trusts its leader.

Grape vines:

When Jesus mentions “The product of grape vine” is meant wine; though grapes were customarily dried (zabeeb) in abundance.  Kids would always carry handful of raisins in their oversized pockets as sweet and also to bribe other children; when long caravans of camels arrive at the market place, kids would bribe the conductors with raisins for a ride to the wells.  Women would get frustrated because camels drank most of the well and the women had to dip their buckets far deeper.

Grape vines were used as aphorism such as “I am the vine and you are its branches” or “Your wife is like a fecund vine around your house. Your sons like olive trees around your dinner table”.  The Prophet Micah said “They will sit under the vine and the fig tree and nothing will scare them”

The ceremonies of grape pressing by men’ and boys’ feet lasted days and nights until the juices were flowed to special receptacles of stones and clay. The press was made of a large stone vat set up on the roof of the house with a certain incline for the flow of the juice. The settled grape juice (rawook) was drunk by the poor people who could not afford wine “the (poor) pressed and felt thirsty”.

The rawook would then be boiled at various degrees; sour wine was preferred by men but sweet wine needed high boiling temperature because preferred by women. When the juice was destined to prepare molasses “debs” then white clay was added to the grapes before pressing for more efficient filtering of organic components.  Isaiah (Ashaya) said “Why your robe is reddish and your cloth looking as you were pressing grapes?”

Nowadays, the national drink is arak or ouzou in Greece and it is basically the condensation of the boiled grape juice through alembics; it is called “mtalat” when the process of condensation is performed three times for a content 97% alcoholic.

Gideon wanted to avoid paying tax on his wheat harvest.  The grape was not ripe yet and thus, Gideon used the top of his house to beat the wheat where grapes were pressed by feet though it was not yet the season of grape pressing.  He was hoping that the Midyanites would not discover his subterfuge.

The Roof Tops:

The houses in the Levant used to be of just one large room where the entire family slept and ate in the winter season; the adjacent split room or a basement sheltered the chicken, goats, cows, or donkey.  The rest of the dry seasons that extended for over 7 months the main meeting place was the roof top; a makeshift tent of dangling grape vines and dry branches, and called “alyyeh“.

The roof was built with supporting tree trunks at three feet intervals and cross branches with no gaps and then 12 inches of dirt rolled over by a cylindrical stone at every season.

Official announcements or the arrival of caravans or any kind of major warnings such as the voices of field keepers (natour) were done by climbing a roof. Jesus advised his disciple to announce the Good News from the roof tops so that every one should hear the message clear and sound; that is what Peter did.

Families would go up to the roof tops to pray and cry and the new comer Hebrews didn’t like this custom of the Land.

When a paraplegic was dangled from a roof top for Jesus to heal the friends dug out the dirt and removed a few branches and made enough space (kofaa) then placed the sick man on a blanket with the four corners attached to a rope.

At the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples are eating on the roof top of a house, the “alyyat”; the family gathers in that shed during the hot seasons that extend for seven months from Mid May to mid September. Jesus and the disciples are sitting in a circle around several large platters of various dishes; everyone extends his hand to dip his piece of bread in the platter of his liking; there are no spoons or forks.

The scene is not as represented by Leonardo Da Vinci in the customs of Florence.

A server pour the wine in a single cup, starting by the most ranked in the gathering.  Before drinking the cup in one shot the guest wishes long life to his friends and ask them to remember him if he is about to leave them for an extended trip; then he selects the next guest to drink and the server pour wine for the selected person and in the same single cup.

After supper, the cup is passed around and everyone takes just a sip.  Jesus said “I longed so much to eat this supper with you before I suffer”

Jesus said: “The first one to dip his bread in my platter will deliver me tonight” was confusing to the disciples because they all dipped in Jesus’ platter one time or another. Judas was always the second in command and must have arranged to have his favorite platter close to him and Jesus for easy access; thus, Judas was the most plausible one to first dip his bread in Jesus platter.

Young John loved Jesus and expressed his feeling as to the customs of the Levant by reclining his head on Jesus’ shoulder.

Jesus adhered to the customs of eating supper and his salutes about eating his flesh or drinking his blood in remembrance of him had a spiritual undertone and suggesting that he was to leave his disciples for good.  Jesus dipped a piece of bread in a platter and specifically offered it to Judas as a symbol of friendship no matter what is in Judas’ heart and mind.

Jesus presented the box of money to Judas, the treasurer, as a sign that nothing is changed in Jesus faith to Judas loyalty in matter of financial transactions. Anyway, Judas was from a rich family and didn’t need small changes.

In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus expresses his feelings of sorrows and pains as a Levantine; he lets his feelings pour out and wants his closest friends to share his feelings.  Three times he invites Peter and the sons of Zebedeh to keep the wake with him because “my soul is sad to death”.  Jesus was praying with such earnestness that his “sweating was of blood”.

Jesus had no choice but to obey his father and urged God “Father, if it were possible to take away this bitter cup, but it is not as I wish but as you want”

Judas approached Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and kissed him several times on the cheeks. Judas was thus telling Jesus, according to the Levant customs, that as of this instant they are on a par in ranks and that Judas decided that he no longer considers Jesus as the Messiah. Some one of a lower rank would shake hands and fake to kiss the right hand and the higher ranked person would fake a kiss on the cheek. Judas was using a custom for greetings that could also be used as a sign for the soldiers to get hold of the leader.

On Obeying Parents:

Obeying parents is not just a filial feeling in the Levant but a religious duty.  The command is “Obey your mother and father” and God punished Adam for simply disobeying him, period.  The story of Luc when Jesus, aged 12 then, was found discussing among the priests in the Temple as the clan went on pilgrimage is revealing. Jesus had priority of which parents to obey first: he reminded his parents that he has a duty to obey his God El first.  In the Levant, no family starts or leaves on a trip before counting and making sure of the presence of all the members of the family.

After the count, Jesus decided to return to the Temple. After the count, his family didn’t worry about Jesus because he was supposed to be amid the wider clan of relatives and because the Great Temple on Mount Carmel (not Jerusalem) was a familiar visiting place and no more than half a day walk to “Bethlehem of Tyr or Efrateh” where they lived, on the east side of Mount Carmel in Upper Galilee.  In none of the parables you find the eldest son depicted as the villain or disrespectful of traditions.  Eldest sons represent the fathers and the continuation of customs.

On Kingdom of Heaven

In the Levant we understand intuitively the figures of speech and parables that the West has hard time to comprehend; we understand and readily accept the meaning though it takes a life time to assimilate the true meaning.  Jesus said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a person who is convinced that there is a treasure hidden in a piece of land. He gathers all his saving a buy the land” The predicators in the West would like to interpret this sentence as a gold or silver mine in the land that need to be excavated and they go at great length into legal terms to differentiate among the words “hidden and buried”.

The customs in our Land was to bury the jar of saved gold and silver coins in the garden or an unclaimed piece of land because the habitat was small (barely one large room where the entire household sleep and eat in) and could not sustain serious hiding places.  Tribes would hide their treasure in the desert before waging a battle and many would never survive to dig up their treasures.

Thus, the individual who bought the land, if he were lucky would have to dig up most of the land anyway to find the jar of treasure.  The meaning is in order to reach the Kingdom of Heaven you would have to go through the same process of fulfilling a dream by investing money, time, and effort most of your life. Consequently, faith is a good starting point to sustain the duration of the long haul but it is not enough if you lack charity in your heart; you have to learn to care and love and support your brothers and neighbors. It is a hard and long endeavor to pass through the “hole of the needle

For example, many predicators in the west tried their best to explain the concept of “a hole in a needle” when Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the hole of a needle than a rich person to go to heaven”.  The predicators in the west invented a more plausible and palatable explanation by saying that “the hole in the needle” was the small door in the huge gate reserved for the passage of individual; they said that a camel could pass through if not loaded with baggage; another nice figure of speech though not correct.

In the languages of the Land, Arabic, Aramaic, or Hebrew the names of the small doors in gates were never called by anything referring to needle. The language in the Levant is extravagant for describing the almost impossible tasks that require perseverance and ingenuity.

Jesus goes on: “Kingdom of heaven is like a land that was sawn with good grains of wheat.  At night, an enemy comes and saw “zouan” (a grain that resembles wheat but causes pain, dizziness, and suffering for many days when mixed with wheat grains; it is mostly used to feed chicken).  The cultivators (slaves) asked the master permission to sort out and pull out the “zouan” from the field. The master said that it is useless since the whole field is ruined” In dire periods of famine many would mix “zouan” with wheat to make profit regardless of the consequences.  The honest master would not take the chance of being perceived as a fraud if his good grain was inadvertently adulterated with “zouan”.  In another verse, Jesus told the servants to patiently and meticulously remove the “zouan” from the wheat then gather around a bonfire to burn the “zouan”

The same idea relates with leaven that was saved in a bag of wheat in order not to rot quickly; in another verse in order to leaven the entire bag of wheat flour.  In ancient periods, people would eat unleavened bread because it was very hard and difficult to keep usable leaven in hot and desert regions.  Thus, leaven had the bad connotation of spoilage agent, such as when Jesus warned his disciples “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” but the disciples didn’t understand this figure of speech: they lived at an advanced and urban period when leaven was no longer associated with spoilage but as a good catalyst.  Consequently, the parable of Jesus “Kingdom of Heaven is like a leaven that a woman hide in three bags of wheat flour until all the bags were leavened and ready to bake refers to the good use of small quantities to affect large lots.

Thus, a term could be used to convey contradictory meaning if we are not conversant with the customs and period of the saying.  In the Levant, cultivators believe that “zouan” will grow among wheat no mater how careful we proceed in sawing fields. Consequently, it is advisable to rotate the field to grow other kinds of harvests in order to have the opportunity to pull out all the “zouan” that spoiled the field for later wheat harvests.

Jesus said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a woman who had misplaced one of her ten coins.  She searches all nights and all days (when the husband is not home), she searches in every nook and cranny and she sweep the floor until she finds the missing coin.  Then this woman would call up her neighboring women friends to join her and celebrate” (Most of the time they spend more on these gathering than what the coin was worth).  People worked hard to earn a coin and the man of the house would invariable express his displeasure for a missing coin and every women had gone through the same experience many times in their lives and it was a real occasion for women to gather, recount, and recall their daily troubles.  There are times for anxiety and relentless searches and times for relaxation and sharing.

There are moments for prioritizing our quests and leaving many tasks undone to focus on an urgent one, such as saving our soul in order not to anger our Lord.  This story is almost identical in meaning as the shepherd who leaves 99 head of sheep grazing unattended in order to find the lost one.

On Women:

Regardless of exterior behaviors of “non-polite” communication with women, men have utmost respect and considerations for their wives and sisters and girls. Inside the homes the couples are at par in responsibilities and duties if not biased toward the wives; “When there is love affectation is redundant”.  In that spirit, it is the good intensions that count and not the actual behaviors.  The Levantine regards the expressions “If you please”, or “be kind enough” are superfluous because love and respect are natural and come with the territory.  This behavior is compatible with the simple and rough daily living; houses are simply furnished with the basic necessities and the entire family members sleep and eat in one room or two; there are no exclusive rooms or quarters for the grown ups; and thus privacy is not a priority.

The tradition of nomadic tribes raiding sedentary affluent villages and taking women captives heightened the protective customs in the Levant and restricted women’s work within the villages.   Women were restrained from showing off and retorting vehemently in gatherings of men.

The attitude of men of adopting the two extreme behaviors of sanctifying women (horma) and occasional “contempt” might convey a feeling of disdain but it is basically a childish behavior coupled with lack of a cultural life that the harsh demands for survival do not reserve time for “luxury”.  The Hebraic laws considered women with no soul and thus could be transacted as chattel; this is not the case for the rest of the people of the Land; and thus this huge cultural difference between the Hebrew Mosaic traditions and the traditions in the Levant.

“Thus spoken God; they will come carrying the little girls over the shoulders.  Kings will be your vassals and queens will nurse you”  The custom of carrying kid girls over shoulders is widely practiced in the Levant; mother resumes her daily tasks while the kid girls sit on their shoulders while getting a hold on the head. The prophet Isaiah (Ashaya) speaks in imageries what the “noble” class in the Levant expects the common people to practice in their presence.

New Borns were wrapped like mummies; first they are washed with lukewarm water and their bodies rubbed with salt and then scented before a square piece of cloth join their arms by the side of the body and the legs stretched.  An unwanted baby or when someone is cursed the maxim says “You were not rubbed with salt when you were born”

On Feet:

Feet were considered dirty parts and sources of impurity, as the left hand was:  people went barefoot or wearing thongs at best, and wiped their behind with their left hands. The same is true when John the Baptist said about the coming Messiah “I will be most honored if he permit me to untie his shoe lace” because stooping near feet is not acceptable and thus, the custom of sitting by the feet of a nobility is a mark of homage bestowed on him.  When the sister of Martha, Mary of Magdala, pours expensive perfumes on Jesus’ feet and rubbed them with her hair she was expressing her complete humiliation and attesting to the Messiah status of Jesus. 

Note 4:  I have published five posts on the theme of customs and tradition in the Near East extracted from the Bibles, Old and New, with some development and clarifications to the benefit of the western civilizations. This post is a compilation of my previous posts.

Note 5: This series of posts was inspired by the book that I reviewed “The Syrian Christ” by Abraham Metrie Rihbany; it was published in the USA and in English in 1916 and I read the Arabic translation.  I thought that it was a good idea to attach relevant contexts to the fragment of verses that Western predicators are found of using on the ground that abstract concepts don’t need any historical, geographic, or people’s customs context.

Note 6: The people in the Levant are people of faith; they refrain from rationally structuring their religion into dogma.  The early Christian communities relied on the custom of brotherhood and faith in the community. It is only when Christian communities were established in Greece and Rome that structuring got underway.  Hundreds of Christian sects mushroomed in the Levant according to a few alterations in the re-structuring of the dogma that spanned into political and self autonomous sects.

After the conclave of Nicee (Turkey) in 325, during the pagan Emperor Constantine, the Church got highly structured and hierarchical; the pagan ceremonies, symbols, and pageantry were introduced to win over the pagans who were in the majority.  Since then, persecution of the “heretic” Christian sects started and is still alive into modern time.

Note 7:  I am no theologian, and frankly, I don’t feel hot for any structured and formalized religions.  I am a guy who is appalled by sects abusing religion for political ends, for institutional profit, and for personal aggrandizement.  Occasionally, a few books of historical nature in matter of religion drop into my hands and they expose a few lethal fallacies; I have no choice but to react, expose the confusion related to abstract concepts out of their historical, geographical, and cultural context.

I cannot withstand sects that abolish individual reflection for the benefit of the “collectivity” or their close knit communities. I disseminate what my personal reflections feel right to inform and educate.

Jerusalem: Ur Salam (City of Peace) (May 2, 2009)

 

Recent archeological works by Kathleen Kenyon discovered a wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem dating from the 18th century BC; water was diverted through underground canals from the fresh source of Guihon to Siloe cisterns inside the walls.

The sea people called Philistines had devastated the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, destroyed the nascent Greek fleet and settled in Gaza and the southern coastline of Palestine around the 12th century.  The entire eastern coastline from north Syria to Sinai was dominated by the Canaanites.  Thus, in southern Palestine the Canaanites had to flee northward and retreat inside toward Jerusalem, one of their 25 City-States. Jerusalem was then inhabited by over ten thousand urban dwellers, a huge number for the period.

Around 11th century BC Moses arrived with his nomadic tribes and his successors endeavored to settle in part of Palestine and battled with the Philistines.  The Canaanites aristocracy aided David to enter Jerusalem and was his administrative supporters.  David thus had two high priests (Ebyatar and Sadoq), two military leaders (Joab and Benayahou), and two heirs apparent (Adoniyyahou and Salomon). David had also two formal sanctuaries for the Jews and the Canaanites.  David adopted the God of the Land El and the demy-Gods of the Sun (Shahar) and the Moon (Shalem) were worshipped.  The Jewish Yahweh (God of thunders) was relegated to the background and played a support function in times of urgent need.

The Jews had no such concept of “throne” and the Canaanite aristocracy provided a throne to David and his solar God was Justice personified and a divinity of the order “sadeq”; thus, Milki Sadeq was the King of Jerusalem when Abraham came to Canaan and paid the tenth (one tenth) to Melki Sadeq.

Salomon supporters of the Canaanites assassinated Adoniyyahou and Joab and Ebyatar was pursuit. Salomon relied on the King of Tyr to building his Temple for the Sun God facing east.  The dedication read: “The divinity of the Sun has announced: Yahweh has decided to live in the shadow. A house has been renovated for his dwelling”.  The God Sun sent two messengers of Right and Justice to destroy Sodom.  In this event as in others, Yahweh shares the responsibility as a subordinate to the Sun God.  Slowly but surely, Yahweh acquired a convincing divinity by the period that preceded the exile to Babylon.

In 587 BC the Babylonian King Nabukhodonor destroys part of the Temple.  The Persian King Cyrus repatriates the Jews in 538 and restores the temple. Alexander enters Jerusalem in 332 and Judea falls under the Ptolemy dynasty.  The Seleucid dynasty dominates Jerusalem from 200 to 142.  Judas Maccabe revolted in 164 and enters Jerusalem which falls to the Hasmonide dynasty until the Roman Pompeii takes Jerusalem in 63 BC.  The zealot Jews take over Jerusalem for two years in 66 AC. The Roman General Titus enters Jerusalem in the year 70 and burns the Temple.  Jerusalem is named Aelia Capitolina.  Bar Kokheba recaptures Jerusalem in 131.  Emperor Hadrian enters Jerusalem and the Jews are definitely dispersed and forbidden to enter Jerusalem.

 Emperor Constantine consecrates the Anastasis (The Saint Sepulcher).  The Persian King Chosroe destroys Jerusalem in 614.  Emperor Heracles re-takes the city in 628.  The Caliph of Islam Omar enters Jerusalem in 638. The Dome of the Rock is built in 691.  The mosque Al Aqsa is built in 705.  The crusaders enter the city in 1099.  The Sultan Sallah el Din enters the city in 1187 and chased out the crusaders.  The Turkish Sultan Selim 2 enters the city in 1244 and gives Jerusalem a religious function and dots it with many religious schools (madrassa).  The Ottoman Empire captures the city in 1516.  The Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilds the walls and enlarges the city with newer walls. In 1967 the Zionist State of Israel enters Jerusalem.  Begin declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel in 1980.

The State of Israel is flaunting all UN resolutions to stop destroying Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem that is proposed to be the Capital of the Palestinian State.

The Unpublished Unifying Book (April 10, 2009)

 

Note: I got the theme of this essay from the manuscript of “The Parson and the Prophet” that I have reviewed and posted.

 

Historical Context

 

            Before Moses there was no such religion as Jewish.  Abraham, Isac, and Jacob worshiped El, the all encompassing God of the Land from Mesopotamis, to Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.  Abraham, Isac, and Jacob paid the tithe to Melki Sadek, the highest grand priest and King of Jerusalem.  The mother of Melki Sadek had a revelation and her son Melki was dedicated to the temple; this story is repeated exactly through the ages such as with Hanna (mother of the Virgin Mary), Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), and to the Virgin Mary; they all dedicated their sons and daughters to the temples (nazeer, and thus nazarean). The title of Virgin given to Mary is an earned sacerdotal label to virgins who served the temple from age of 3 till marriage. The Bible mentions many prophets who were dedicate to temples as revelations descended on their mothers.  It was common to the noble and sacerdotal families to dedicate sons or daughters to temples.  Thr rank of Melki Sadek was the highest and it was for life and he could transfer that rank to anyone of his choosing by anointment (mesheeh), thus Messiah.

            Moses led nomadic tribes and the scribes of the Bible in Alexandria (in the second century before Christ) mentioned that Moses received a revelation and the ten commandements from Yahweh (Jehovah); thus (Yahood or Jews).  Again, it is the same repetition of revelations and the descent of written messages and commandements through the ages to the chosen prophets.  Moses’ commandements had to be given by a supreme being for ignorant nomads who constantly needed to rely on a supreme being to alleviate their fears; these commandements and hundreds more were already included in the civil codes of laws of the Land since before King Hamourabi of Babylon.  The relatively urban towns and cities in the Levant and Mesopotamia had more sophisticated abstract concepts that could sustain diversities in belief systems.

            Invariably, religions would like the believers to understand that their Prophets were illeterate in order to prove that only God could have interceded with the prophet for the message.  These allegations are pure fabrications. Abraham was educated, Moses was highly educated and a grand priest and Muhammad aided his uncle parson Warkat bin Nawfal in translating into Arabic the Bible and the special Aramaic version of the New Testament Mathew.  All the prophets had read in the Books of their times.  Jesus was highly educated and was a “nazeer” in the Great Temple of Mount Carmen since the age of six; but Jesus didn’t need translated versions of the Books because he was Aramean and a messenger of the Land.

            Translation of Books to another language was not done literally; the meaning was retained as honestly as desired but the context and style were compatible with the cultures and customs of the targeted people for better understanding and memorization.  That is why reading in Books was done by chanting (tarteel) so that musical intonation could support the retention process.

            Jesus mission was to win over “the lost sheep among the tribes” in Judea, Benjamin, and the Hasmonides because they staunchly continued to worship Yahweh, their unspiritual God for earthly dominion by the sword. Jesus wanted to unite all the tribes of Israel (Tribes of El) and not of Yahweh.

 

The Kuran of Mecca:

 

            The purpose of the Prophet Muhammad was to gather common denominators for the belief systems among the main Christian and Jewish sects in the Arabic Peninsula: they all worshiped One God, the Creator of all things, and they believed in Heaven and Hell.  In that direction, the Prophet accepted the premise that the monotheist sects shared Abraham (who was neither Jewish not Christian) as their first prophet who had the Orthodix “haneef” belief; Muhammad acknowledged all the prophets that succeded Abraham. Muhammad accepted in their integrality all the mythical stories in the Bible of the Creation, Noah, the Deluge, Joseph in Egypt and all the rest (these stories were indeed the myths of the Land for thousands of years before Abraham).  Muhammad was apprehensive that one of those diverse sects might think that he particularly sided with one of Israel sects since they are all Moslems in God.  The prophet said “You are not believers until you value the Bible and the New Testament and what were descended on you. The Book descended on two previous religions but we were not aware of them” (because not written in Arabic)

Muhammad proclaimed Jesus as one of the latest and most spiritual prophet of all because he carried the Holy Ghost of Allah. Muhammad avoided the corny issues of the Trinity, the Virginity of Mary, the crucifiction and death of Jesus that divided the Christian sects. Muhammad venerated the Virgin Mary as the mother of the prophet who received revelations as well as John the Baptist.  In fact, Mary is the only female name mentioned in the Koran and Jesus (Issa) was mentioned as “Son of Mary”, thus Issa ibn Mariam. In the Koran Muhammad proclaimed that the Christian-Jewish sects in Arabia were Moslems before he started his message and the teaching of the Koran was initiated because they relied on a unique God and didn’t admit that anyone else is part of him (shirik) such as Jesus or the Holy Ghost. The word Koran “Kuraan” has Aramaic roots “kuru” which means reading, reciting from a book.

            During the Mecca period of proselytizing (about 13 years), what is known as the Koran of Mecca, there were Jewish sects and Muhamad never mentioned the Jews in his verses. Only the Christian-Jews three main sects (Ebyonites, Cerinthe, and Elxai, see notes) were referred to as “Nassara” (those Christian nazeers who were dedicated to monasteries to pray, read the Books and meditate) and they read in the Book of the only and unique God.  In fact, after Muhammad settled in Yathreb (Medina) the Nassara sects would pay him visit from Mecca to mediate among them. The Prophet Muhammad was taken aback and said what amount to “They read in the Book that can answer all their questions and yet they come to me for mediation” The Prophet did not face any obstacles from the Nassara sects in Arabia simply because the Koran of Mecca was almost a cabon copy of the Books they read in and had translated into Arabic. It is to be noted that these Nassara sects were considered “heretics” by the Orthodox Christian religion in Constantinople because they would not admit the divinity of Jesus and followed the Jewish daily laws and customs.

The Jews in Yathreb and in Khibar revolted against the teaching of Islam who accepted Jesus as a prophet and got apprehensive of the growing power of Moslems in their midst.  The non-Moslem tribes of Mecca asked the Jews of Yathreb to cooperate with them and the Jewish leaders descended to Mecca to plot against the Moslems. Armed struggles decided the difficulties to the advantage of the Moslems.  The prophet considered the Jewish sects as tyrannical and not behaving with charity toward the orthodox religions, complicating the belief system, and blasphemic the Virgin Mary and Jesus.  “God created man weak and He wants to make it easy on him and not complicate his life. We have sent a prophet to every nation” so that nations can read the message of One God in their own language.

 All the sects in Arabia were united around one religion that was made easy (khefat) and reductive “moktassadat” to be comprehend by nomads and desert people who lacked knowledge of abstract theological concepts and it was easy to memorize by short rimed sentences and disseminated by chants.  Thus, Muhamad warned the Christian sects (such as the Jacobites, Nestourians, and Melkites) who believed in the divinity of Jesus, of the son of God, the trinity, and the resurrection to desist in their exaggerations and overestimation in religious beliefs (ghelou fi al deen) and accept the simple fact of One God as a unifying reality that unite the tribes of the believers in One God.

 

In Mecca, Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad, and the parson Warkat bin Nawfal, the patriarch of the Christia-Jew sect of the Epyionites, transcribed Muhammad’s revelations and verses during his epileptic fits.  In Medina, Aicha bint Abu Bakr, the educated and most beloved wife of the Prophet, was almost exclusively in charge of recording the revelations when the Prophet Mohamad had his bouts of seizures. She would cover him with warm blankets and write down the verses until he falls asleep.  Aicha has dedicated her life into gathering, organizing the revelations and meeting with scholars and close friends of the Prophet to keep a complete record. Aicha saved her copies very jealously until the third Calipahte Othman bin Affan ordered the archive to be handed over to him. Aicha didn’t trust Othman and she kept copies of all her documents.  At the time, only rich people could afford to write down documents because they were recorded on special leather in the Arab Peninsula. Thus, rich educated people had the task of transcribing the verses for better retention, memorizations, and an act of devotion.

By the time Othman decided to issue an official Book for Islam (The Koran of Medina) most of the Byzantium and Sassanide Empires were conquered; Egypt was part of the Arab Moslem Empire. The formal or official Book had to take these political realities into accounts, realities of victors and vainquished.  The Caliphate Othman sorted out the verses and selected what suited the political interest of the new Islamic Empire; many verses were burned and disappeared, others were tampered with such as adding “nassara” (Christian) after Jews though the sentence would break the rime (sajaa).  Othman arranged verses by order of length and the gathered book was considered the official Koran. For example, the shortest revelations or verses are the first chronologically and represent the message of Islam in the first 13 years (The Koran of Mecca) before the relocation to Medina or Yathreb in 633.  The longest came afterward and dealt mostly with civil management, daily routine, penal codes, and organization of the converts to Islam.

It is my contention that Aicha bint Abu Bakr had hidden and distributed copies of her complete archive.  If there is the will there is a way to reconstitute the message of the Prophet Muhammad in its historical and chronological contexts taking into account the fundamental principle of working on the common denominators in the belief system among the majority of the monotheist religions; and hopefully discovering a copy of the original archive as the work is in progress.

The Prophet Muhammad was crystal clear in his message: making the religion easy, light, acceptable to most sects, and readable by the language of every nation.  It is about time we focus on the value of life and let the abstract limiting and restrictive theological conepts (ideology) to the few power monger sacerdotal castes.

 

Note 1: The Epyonite Christian-Jew sect was discussed and commented on by the early Christian scholars and Bishops like Irene, Epiphane, and Origene.  The name Epionites refers to the “poor” in Aramaic such as “Blessed be the poor”; this sect considered Jesus one of the great prophets. Jesus was not God or Son of God who received the revelations after John baptized him and thus, the messiah spirit entered him till he was crucified.  Jesus message was teaching and preaching the revelation but didn’t include saving or forgiving our sins. The Aramaic Testament of Mathew is their only book in addition to the Bible; this New Testament of Mathew used by the Epionites was revised slanted and distorted according to Epiphanous. This sect persevered on frequent washing for purification, not eating meat, and to focus on aiding and feeding the needy, widowers, and people of passage.  After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, many of the priests in Komran immigrated to Hijjaz in the Arab peninsula.

 

Note 2:  The Christian-Jew Cerinthe sect proclaimed that Heaven resembled life on earth where the body will get its fill of every passion it needed to satisfy; that the role of Jesus was to free his people from the Romans; that Jesus message was political and social.

 

Note 3:  The Christian-Jew sect Elxai was Gnostic (knowledge).  It preached that Jesus is another human and the Mesiah in him vacated his body before martyridom.  The Holy Ghost is the mother of Jesus and the Angel Gabriel depending on events. Jesus received the Bible from the angel and Gabriel taught Jesus wisdom and the ability to foreseeing the future.

Who are the Israelites?  (March 30, 2009)

 

Note: I decided to combine several articles I had posted on that topic to form a comprehensive essay. 

I am no theologian; and frankly I don’t feel hot for any structured and formalized religion.  I am a guy who is appalled by sects abusing religion for political ends, for institutional profit, and for personal aggrandizement. 

I am mostly appalled by civil administrations using religion for political ends. The spirit of Democracy is actually designed to prohibit civil governments from using religion as a political tool .

Occasionally, a few books of historical nature in matter of religion drop into my hands and they expose a few lethal fallacies; and I have no choice but to react, to expose the confusion related to abstract concepts out of their historical, geographical, and cultural context.  I cannot withstand sects that abolish individual reflection for the benefit of the “collective” or their close knit communities.

There is huge confusion and contentions out of subject matter between abstract belief concepts in religion and the context of the belief system.  No wonder that Christianity generates as many splits as abstraction can sustain. 

Without firm comprehension of the customs and traditions in the Levant (mainly, current Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria) and its geographical, historical, and religious context, the Christians, in their entire spectrum of sects, will stay disoriented and out of touch with their identity. 

 

A Short Introduction

I will have to skip thousands of years of major civilizations in the Near East and Mesopotamia in order to focus on the subject. 

Thus, I start from the period (of the story) that Abraham and his successive clans settled in the Land of Canaan, then discuss the period that the Hebrews of Moses sneaked in Palestine over one thousand years later after the settlement of Abraham, the Kingdom of David and Solomon that lasted less than a century, the split of Solomon’s Kingdom into 12 districts or tribes, the schism between the Samaritans and the Hebrews of Judea, the deportations of the Samaritans followed by the Hebrews of Jerusalem to Babylon, the contribution of Cyrus of Persia to the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC,

Followed with the Seleucid Dynasty that lasted two centuries, the revolt of the Maccabees (Hashmonides) and their Kingdom that lasted less than a century, then the conquest of the Roman General Pompeii to the Levant, the advent of Jesus Christ, the first Christian communities, the conclave of Nicee (Turkey) in 325 during Emperor Constantine and the persecution of the “heretic” Christian sects, the establishment of the Ashkenazi Hebraic Kingdom in the Caucasus till its destruction in 950 AC by the emerging Russia, the schism between Papal Rome and Constantinople around the year 1000 and the second wave of persecution of “heretic” Christian sects.

Then the Crusaders’ campaigns that lasted for a century, the schism between Papal Rome and Martin Luther and Calvin in late 15th century, the emergence of the various sects in England and transferred to the USA such as the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Baptists, and the New Conservative sects in the south of the USA, and finally, the re-colonization of Palestine by the Central Europe Ashkenazi Zionists in the 20th century.

 

From Abraham to the Macabe Kingdom 160 BC

 

Period one: Abraham Abraham was very familiar with the customs, traditions, and culture of the Land when he decided to settle his clans in Canaan coming from the Kingdom of Ur in lower Mesopotamia. Abraham was a genuine leader of the Land.  He paid the tribute and the tithe (the tenth of income to the highest priest of the Land Melki Sadek who was the King of Jerusalem. 

Abraham recognized the high sacerdotal rank of Melki Sadek who worshiped God El (pronounce Eel) as the all unifying God of the Land.  Issac and Jacob also paid the tithe to the highest priest of the Land.

For example, Abraham had no piece of land in Canaan; his clan let their goats and sheep graze in unclaimed lands. As there was a death in the family of Abraham then he resolved to prepare for the burial ceremony.  Abraham sent a third party to ask Afroun son of Sohar of the tribe of Hath for a small piece of land to bury the dead. Abraham said: “I am a guest in your land. Could you give me a swath so that I may bury what is in front of me?” 

Every village had a burying ground facing east and guests, by the custom of hospitality, could be enjoying the same facilities. Afroun replied: “Abraham you are a reverend and I shall bury the deceased in the best of our graves” Abraham had set his mind to settle in Canaan and wanted his own burial ground, thus he asked to buy a piece of land.  Afroun replied: “A land of no more than 400 silver shekels should not be an obstacle” Abraham got the hint and sent the amount. 

This polite and diplomatic negotiation is part of the Levant customs thousand of years before Abraham came to Canaan.

Jacob started his trip from the southern confine of Canaan at Beer Sheba (Bir El Sabeh or the well of the Lion) toward Haran (a city situated 280 miles north-east of Damascus and located between the Euphrates and Tiger Rivers by the Bleekh River).  He stopped for the night at the village of Ola Loz (which Jacob named Beit El or the House of God El). Jacob had a dream of a ladder reaching heaven and angels coming down and up this ladder. Jacob marked this place with a stone and poured oil on it.

Then, Jacob resumed his travel toward the “Easter Land”. Jacob’s wife Rachel (Raheel) died of child birth at Efrateh of Bethlehem (in Galilee) and was buried there.  Rachel named the new born Ben Oni which Jacob transformed to Ben Yamine (Benjamin).

The ancient Old Bibles mentioned only the ancient and prosperous town of Bethlehem Efrateh in Galilee (because members of the tribe Efrat lived in the vicinity), on the east side of Mount Carmel.  Bethlehem of Judea was a fortified garrison and not a town during David.  In the Book of Mikha it is said “And you, Bethlehem Efrateh, is the smallest of the Jewish tribes (Zebulon) but from you will come out the one who will rule Israel (The Tribes of God EL)”.

 

Period two:  Moses

Moses led all the strangers in Egypt who were ordered to leave because they supported the previous monarch Akhenaton.  Akhnaton instituted the worship of the One God Sun (Aton) for over 20 years before he died and his religion replaced by the older religion of Amon and his followers persecuted. The tribes of Moses were swelled by other foreigners who left in a hurry with “unleavened bread”, meaning at night.

Those Egyptian Hebrew tribes were not familiar with the culture and traditions of the Land in the Levant.  They occupied land by the sword and committed genocide in every town they entered. For example, “Joshua (Yashou) son of Noun entered the town of Makid, and exterminated its inhabitants as he did with the king of Hebron (Ariha), then progressed to Lebna, then Lakish, then Horam, the Ajloun, then Habroun, then to Dabeer and killed the kings, destroyed the towns, slaughtered the handicapped, the babies and even the animals; any breathing inhabitant was massacred in these towns and villages”

The God of the Hebrew was called Jehovah (Yahwa), sort of a totem to discriminate themselves from the tribes of the Land in Canaan. Thus, the name Jew (yahoud) was given to Moses’ tribes.  Before Moses arrival there was no such religion as Jew or Hebrew.  The God of the Land was El and all the other minor Gods were sorts of patron saints to syndicates and towns that felt the need for an identity.  The Hebrew wanted Jehovah to establish a Kingdom on earth in any way available because their culture was different from the culture of the Levant. 

The nomadic tribes of Moses were mercenaries to the Canaanite king of Jerusalem fighting the newly settled maritime power called Philistine in Gaza; thus, a small temple for the warrior God Jehova was build for these mercenaries in Jerusalem.  The temple was mostly discarded until another war required the mercenaries to join the army; then the temple was re-opened and dusted off.

Joshua son of Noun (Yashou Bin Noun) distributed lands for the 12 tribes that he planned to conquer up north but failed to conquer; he barely ruled over Judea and the southern part of Palestine. Thus, the tribe of Asher was allocated Upper Galilee extending from Tyr to Mount Carmel, the tribe Zebulon the east side of Mount Carmel or Lower Galilee, and the tribe of Nephtali extending to Lake Howla and up to Mount Harmon (Haramoun).

  

Solomon

Solomon succeeded his son David and built a Kingdom that lasted less than 50 years.  Solomon got to appreciate the culture and civilization of the Land.  He cooperated and negotiated with the King of Tyr Ahiram to build the temple in Jerusalem and also to build a sea fleet.  The fleet was wrecked at its first attempt to take to the sea; they say “Les Hebraiques n’avaient pas the pied marin” (they had not the mariners’ feet). In fact, no Kingdom in Judea ever controlled the sea coast.

The Hebrews in Judea sank into abject materialism and their sacerdotal caste developed 640 Laws to regulate their daily life.  Thus, the Hebrews of Moses viewed the inhabitants of the Land as their enemies to be subjugated and cowed into submission for the loot. The detailed gory tales in the Bible are mostly from that bloody period

Period three:Samaria

The tribes of the Land where chased out of Judea by the new settlers of the Hebrews of Moses.  They regrouped in Samaria and Galilee “of Nations” and formed their own fiefdoms which were called Israel or the “Tribes of El” in Aramaic.  The “tribes” of Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali settled in Galilee and merged with the culture of the land. 

The Hebrews of Judea considered the districts of upper and lower Galilee as “Goyim” or gentile of many “Nations” but they viewed the Samaritans as Jews hostile to the strict Hebraic Laws and who worshipped El instead of Jehovah. The King of Tyr married his daughter Isabelle to a Samaritan tribe leader.  Atalia, the daughter of Isabelle, married the King of Jerusalem and rule after his death.  Then the Kingdom of Ashur in upper Mesopotamia conquered Samaria and deported the population.  A century later, it was the lot of Judea to be conquered by the Kingdom of Babylon and deported.

For a palpable political appreciation you may consider the split between the Sephardim and the Ashkenazi in current Israel. The Ashkenazi of Central Europe dominate the economic and policy making; a fresh immigrant from Europe can contemplate to rise quickly in the political and economic landscape while the Jews of the Arab and Moslem World have to fight the good fight for the crumbs. It is of no wonder that the Ashkenazi decided for Hebrew to be the national language that in no way compared to the versatile and rich Yiddish German/Slavic language they used to write and communicate with.  Hebrew was simply selected for its political connotation.  Galilee generated four prophets though the Pharisee caste mocked Jesus saying that “no prophets can come from Galilee”.

Period four:

In 167 BC, the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanus banned the worshiping of Jehovah, forbid circumcision, and ordered burning the Hebrew Bible; those decrees were executed efficiently and occasionally by harsh measures. Only the Hebrews of Judea revolted against these decrees; they were led by the priest Matatia of the Hashmonid tribe.  Matatia’s son Judah, nicknamed Macabe (the handler of ax), resumed the revolt until he vanquished the Seleucid King.  From 166 to 63 BC the zealot Macabe Kingdom ruled the Land. In 103 BC, Aristopoulos, son of Simon Macabe, ordered every citizen to be circumcised and to abide by Moses’ Law.  The ancestors of Judas Iscariot were from the Macabe town.

Consequently, the non-Jews of Galilee were subjected to these rules, including the ancestors of Jesus Christ who lived in upper Galilee (current south Lebanon).  It is worth mentioning that much later, in 132 AC, Emperor Hadrian banned circumcision and the Hebrews in Judea revolted again; the revolt of Barcoba (son of the star) was squashed and the remaining Jews experienced the greatest dispersion.

During the Hellenistic period, God El was called Helios (the Greek added an H before an E at the beginning of a word; for example Heliopolis means the city of El).

 

On the Origins of the Virgin Mary

Joachim (Youwakeem) Omram and Hanna, the parents of the Virgin Mary, were from the village of Qana (ten kilometers south of the city of Tyr and at an altitude of 85 meters. This Qana was called Qana of Tyr of Upper Galilee and was within the district of Phoenicia during the Seleucid and early Roman Empires. The administrative district of Upper Galilee extended from Tyr to Dora and included Acre, Haifa and Mount Carmel.

Joachim was one of the eminent personalities in the town of Qana and was an Essenean high priest. He had been frustrated because he could not secure any descendents. Joachim took his sheep to a remote area and fasted and prayed for 40 days. Hanna was also frustrated with this extended absence and decided to take off her black cloth and washed her hair and went out in the garden.  Hanna received an apparition that she will soon get pregnant and that Joachim is on his way home.

Mary was born in Qana and her parents dedicated (pledge) her to the Great Temple on Mount Carmel to be one of the 12 virgin nuns of the elite families in the region in the monastery. When Mary was three years of age she was interned in the monastery to serve and worship in the temple and she was named “The Pigeon of God El”. (The Hebrews in Judea never allowed girls to serve in temples). Joseph was also from Qana and one of Mary’s relatives; he was one of the superintendents at the temple and he cleaned, painted and did the various tasks of maintenance. Mary received the “Good Tiding” from the Archangel while serving in Mount Carmel.

Mary and Joseph got married and Jesus was born in one of the many caves on the north-eastern side of Mount Carmel where the Essenean sect had instituted many dispensaries and hospitals for the sick and pregnant women. The Virgin Mary was allocated a comfortable dispensary because she was the favorite among the 12 virgin nuns.  Jesus was also a “nazeer” because the Virgin Mary had an apparition and vowed her born kid to the monastery. Thus, Jesus spent his early youth as an intern in the monastery from age 6 till he was able to aid his parents earning a living.

Mary visited her aunt Elizabeth (Elisabat) in Galilee who was 6 months pregnant and who gave birth to John the Baptist, also a “nazeer” since Elizabeth received a revelation. Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem of Tyr or Efratat east of Mount Carmel. The town of Nazareth did not exist yet and the area was called “nazereen” because of the many monasteries in that region.

Joseph, the husband of Mary was also from Qana of Tyr and a relative.  They settled in the very ancient and prosperous town of Bethlehem of Tyr, also called Bethlehem Efrata, less than 6 miles east of Mount Carmel.  Bethlehem Efrata is situated on the south edge of the fertile plain of El Netouf where wheat and grain were harvested; thus the name of Bethlehem (House of Bread) because wheat grain was stored there to be redistributed to the region. The River Keeshond (Kishoun) passes between Bethlehem and Mount Carmel and ends in the bay of Haifa.

After Joseph died the Virgin Mary and her sons Jesus, Jacob, Joseph, Simon, and Judah returned to her hometown of Qana of Tyr. The Virgin Mary had two residences: Qana was the winter residence because close to the seashore at altitude of 85 meters, and the summer residence (the dry season extending 7 months) in Magdoushi (East of the city of Sidon).

Jesus was called “Jesus of Mary” after the death of Joseph to distinguish him from the other Jesus. (The Hebrews of Judea never referred a son to his mother). Mary was also called “the sister of Jacob” because her mother Hanna had remarried after the death of Joachim and gave birth of many offspring; the eldest son of Hanna was apparently named Jacob.  Jesus was also called Emanuel (Amanoueel) which means (The God El is among us).  All the names that start with El or finish with El refer to the God El, the all encompassing God of the Land.

In the wedding of Qana, where Jesus showed his miraculous power of transforming water into wine, Mary was in her own town and it is Jesus who was invited.  Jesus came up from Lake Tiberiad to join the wedding.  After the wedding, Mary and the brothers of Jesus (Jacob, Joseph, Simon, and Judah) followed him down to Cafarnaom by the Lake and stayed there for a few days and then were part of Jesus’ party from then on.

Mary retained the title of Virgin because she earned it serving as one of the virgins in the Great Temple.  There is this tradition in the Levant to keep bestow the title of nun and priest even for those who later relinquished their sacerdotal duties.

The first church was built on Mount Carmel and dedicated to the Virgin Mary while still alive.  A church was built in Qana by the disciples and excavations showed a church from the first century.  The Moslems had veneration for the tomb of Joachim called “The tomb of the prophet Omran”.  When Israel bombarded south Lebanon in 1996 for 15 days one of the missiles made a large crater, 4 meters off the tomb of the prophet Omran.  The excavations uncovered a buried church and the tombs of the family of Omran.  

             

 

Note 1: Qana is famous today because Israel massacred over 100 civilians and gravely injured 120 when her bombs targeted a UN compound in Qana and then hit that same town in 2006 and killed 50 more civilians.  Qana was an important town for many centuries before Christ and the main resting place of the disciples before venturing any further. Qana of Upper Galilee (The Galilee of Nations or the Gentiles for the Hebrews) was the location where the disciples gathered for a while after the lapidating of the first martyr Etienne (Estefanos).

 

Note 2: The astrophysist Reznicoff confirms that the Comet Halley that showed the way to the mages crossed Galilee and not Judea.

 

On the Life of Christ the Messiah

 

For two decades the Essenean sect was in a frantic state of expectation; they were waiting for the coming of a Messiah any time soon.  This state has all the signs of a turn of millennium.  The question is: the millennium of which religion and of which temple? Is it one of the millennium of the construction of The Great Temple on Mount Carmel or in Jerusalem? Is it the millennia of the highest priest Melki Sadek who was the King of Jerusalem and to whom Abraham paid the tithe? Or was it one of the millennium of Ahura Mazda, the Persian Sun God that was preponderant in the region at this turn of the century?

 

Jesus was born in the years 9 to 7 BC if we have to take account of the Comet Haley appearance in Galilee that showed the way to the Mages. Caesar’s census started in the year 10 BC. Jesus was a “nazeer” because the Virgin Mary had an apparition and vowed her born kid to the monastery. Thus, Jesus spent his early youth as an intern in the monastery from age 6 till he was able to aid his parents earning a living.

After the death of his father Joseph, Mary returned to her hometown of Qana with her children.  Jesus attended The Law University in Sidon and taught for a few years after graduation.  On Fridays, Mary would wait on a hill for Jesus to ascend and spend the weekend.  A church was built in Magdoushi named the “Lady of Mantara” or the waiting lady close to the Darb El Seem (the path of the moon, in honor of Goddess Ashtarut). Being the eldest son, Jesus had many administrative and accounting duties to attend to during the weekends.  Probably the family owned a flock of sheep and cows and they didn’t need temporary stockades in Magdoushi to dismantle at the end of the grazing season; the flock would move out to Qana for the winter season.

After Jesus graduated in Law at the University of Sidon he went on an extended trip, far and long, to further his education and knowledge in the famous schools of Alexandria, Damascus, Babylon, and Persia.  Either he ventured on his own volition or the Essenean high priest sent him on a mission to gather more sightings or signs on the imminent second coming at the turn of the millennia.  This tour of knowledge acquisition and spiritual maturation abroad must have been one of the main criterions for being elevated to the rank of priest. 

Before spreading the message, Jesus was anointed (Messiah) to the order of Melki Sadek. Jesus was about 35 of age and he was not preaching a different message than that of the Esseneans but he got the arduous job of teaching a spiritual message that was opposed by the rigid Hebrew Laws.  The Essenean sect was sending Jesus among the wolves out of necessity: they were sincerely expecting the second coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist was already preparing the spiritual climate for the coming of the Messiah. 

Jesus later received the revelation that he was indeed the Messiah and his plans changed.  Jesus’ new mission was to save or win over the “lost sheep” of the tribes of Judea, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Simeon.  Those tribes were the remnants that Moses led to Canaan and worshipped Jehovah (Yahwa) instead of the all encompassing God El of the land; thus the name Jews (Yahoud).and had to visit Jerusalem.

For two years Jesus was testing and evaluating on his disciples the proper means for spreading the spiritual message; it was a hard task and it was not that intuitive to the disciples even with stories, miracles, and parables. At least four of the disciples were from Qana of Tyr (Simon the Zealot was one of them and a close relative of Joseph) and the rest from Galilee; with an exception, Judas Iscariot. 

Judas Iscariot was from the town of Magdala in Lower Galilee. It was the summer residence of his father Simon the leper, his brother Lazarus, and his sisters Martha, and Mary Magdalena.  The ancestors of this family were from the tribe of Simeon south of Judea and from the same town of the Macabe Dynasty (Iscariot) that ruled Palestine and all Galilee for over a century (166-60 BC) and imposed the Hebrew Laws and circumcision to the people of the Land.  The highly educated and rich Judas was a zealot who wanted to defeat the Romans and had no sympathy for the sacerdotal caste in Judea that obliged the Roman rulers.

For two years Jesus carried his disciples through Tyr, Sidon, Damascus, the Decapolis (ten cities) in north east the Jordan River and performed miracles and had followers. As he was in Capharnaoum, he received an invitation to a wedding in Qana of Tyr; his mother was there and Jesus transformed water to wine.  Then, Jesus, his mother and four brothers descended to Capharnaoum and stayed there for a while.  The third year witnessed mass followers on the steps of Jesus heading toward Jerusalem.  Jesus was not permitted to cross through Samaria and thus had to opt for the longer but easier route along the Jordan River, to Jericho and then ascending to Jerusalem.

On his way to Jerusalem Jesus felt the danger and he appreciated the sapping techniques of the sacerdotal caste in Judea; questions with political undertones and innuendos increased; questions on his qualifications, on his practices of the Mosaic Laws, on his legitimacy for chasing demons out and absolving sins.  Jesus felt that he is being watched and dragged into the trap.  As he approached Jerusalem Jesus was on a war path and acted accordingly and vehemently as he entered the city.  It was this fighting behavior that the Pharisees and Sadducee wished Jesus to express.

Jesus experienced a cultural shock as he witnessed business transactions going on in full swing in the Temple; he made a whip and chased out the merchants and usurers and overturned their tables.  Jesus told them: “It is said that the Temple is the House of God and not a cavern for thieves.”  The first martyr Stephen said to the Pharisees before being stoned to death “Ye stiff necked; ye the uncircumcised in heart and ear”.  Jesus was welcomed on Palm Sunday as a fresh leader with high moral values that could re-establish justice and fairness.

The Jews in Judea wanted a revolt against the Romans and not an in-fighting with the priesthood and thus, Jesus lost his initial momentum for not putting forward explicit political or social reforms.  By Thursday Jesus understood that the good fight for verbal challenges with the sacerdotal caste were over. Jesus was to be put to death before he leaves Jerusalem when it would be too late to stopping his message and be protected by the other Israeli tribes outside of Judea. 

The Pharisees and Sadducees knew the origins of Jesus and Jesus confirmed their knowledge; the Pharisees strongly suspected that Jesus was the Messiah and he replied “You said it” but they would not relinquish centuries of earthly dreams of domination; the Pharisees knew full well that Jesus was as good a leader as any but he was from the “nazareen” region (Galilee) where monasteries for the “nazeers” abound, where girls and women served in the Temples, and Jesus was as good as a “gentile”. (The town of Nazareth would be built two centuries later but it did not exist at the time of Jesus). The sacerdotal caste in Judea could never allow a leader outside of its tribes. (Read the piece of The Last Supper). Jesus was elevated to Heaven on Mount Carmel.

Jesus was highly educated.  He could speak Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The name Jesus is also called Emanuel (Amanueel) which mean “Eel (God) is among us”; thus, God was made human. Jesus was also called Rabbi (Rabuny) which means teacher in Aramaic.  Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let anyone call you Rabbi since you have only one teacher in Christ and you are all brethren”

Jesus wore the same long white robe that the Essenean sect of Mount Carmel wore; the consecrated members were called “The White Brethren” and they were famous as healers.  The Esseneans had many branches in Galilee and a prosperous one in Alexandria (Egypt) and had places for welcoming travelers and the sick.  John the Baptist, close relative of Jesus and just 6 months older, never left the region of Galilee; he baptized with water as of the Esseneans traditions and baptized Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah.

Judas Iscariot must have decided on a drastic plan to challenge Jesus into serious reaction.  Either Jesus successfully challenges the sacerdotal caste and wins politically or if he fails then Judas will have nothing to do with further excursions outside of Judea.  Judas mainly betrayed the members of his family who worshiped Jesus. Judas Iscariot’s was in heart a zealot and his ancestors were from the southern region where the Macabe revolt started in 166 BC.

 

On the Early Christian Communities:

 

After Jesus crucifixion, a few disciples and the new converts of Christian-Jews, particularly the community of the Church of the Circumcised, headed by Jack (brother of Jesus) and Peter (as the moral icon) in Jerusalem, knew intuitively that in order to “save” the Hebrew Jews, “those lost sheep” of Israel, then Jesus had to be re-created to be a genuine and full blooded descendent of King David, because the Jews of Judea would never believe in a Messiah outside their tribes of Benjamin and Judea.  They steadfastly practiced the Hebrew Laws in order to maintain excellent relationship with the sacerdotal caste and survive as a community of “brethren”.  They ate all together and administered their community of Jerusalem as they learned to do within the Essenean communities.

This community in Jerusalem effectively contributed to the disinformation that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea and went to the ludicrous extent of attributing Jesus’ ancestors to King David; though they knew well as the Pharisees knew that Jesus was a “gentile”.  All the falsifications by the late writers of the New Testament, written in Greek and a few translated in Greek, especially the four legally and officially accepted by the Christian Church were tampered with on purpose.  The much earlier testimonies and manuscripts that recounted the origins of Jesus and his family were obscured and shelved one way or another.

 Saint Paul spent most of his energy fighting against these Christian Jews communities who did their best to visit each of the communities that Paul established in Turkey and Greece and forced the application of the Hebrew Laws.  The comprehension of the message of Jesus was so weak and blurred in the main community of Jerusalem that Saint Paul had to proclaim “We are Christians because we believe in the resurrection of Christ the Messiah” It was an implicit message that the Hebrew Laws were thus redundant since the Messiah had already come. Customs and traditions are enduring and they survived for centuries.  It would be advisable for further information to refer to my book review “Saint Paul: The Runt of God”.

In the first 3 centuries, many Christian sects organized their communities according to self-autonomous dogmas and laws.  Most of them had already adopted their own Bible before the conclave of Necee in 325 formalized the four Testaments.  There were hundreds of “apocryphal” Bibles; many Bibles have effectively dropped any mention of Jesus’ ancestry to David or even any physical existence because they could not admit that Jesus was human.  Other sects refused to admit that Jesus was God.  There were contentions on the status of the Virgin Mary.  All these differences had foundations on the traditions and customs of the Land and for political autonomy as dictated by the spirit of the Land and the level of education of the communities for assimilating abstract concepts.

The pagan Emperor Constantine convened a conclave of hundreds of bishops in Nicee (Turkey) in 325 in order to formalize and set up a unified structure to Christianity.  It was the mentality of an Emperor who required a State-like belief system to be run as a State institution that would also satisfy the majority of the pagans in his Kingdom by adopting their yearly rituals and pomp and hierarchical structure. 

Those Christian communities that dissented and were in majority were persecuted as “heretics” and dispersed to the confines of the Kingdom and to remote inaccessible mountain regions.

Who are the Israelites?  From Abraham to the Macabe Kingdom (Chapter one); (March 19, 2009)

 

Note: It might turn out to be a lengthy essay: I will split it in a series of small chapters.

 

There is huge confusion and out of matter relations between the abstract belief concepts among the Christians and the context of their religion.  No wonder that Christianity generates as many splits as abstraction can sustain.  Without firm comprehension of the customs and traditions in the Levant and the geographical, historical, and religious context the Christians, in the entire spectrum of sects, will stay disoriented and out of touch with their identity.  It is beneficial to set the geographical and historical background of the Levant (mainly, current Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria).

I will have, reluctantly, to skip thousands of years of major civilizations in the Near East and Mesopotamia in order to focus on the subject.  Thus, I start from the period that Abraham and his successive clans settled in the Land of Canaan, then the period that the Hebrews of Moses sneaked in Palestine, then the Kingdom of David and Salomon that lasted less than a century, then the split of Salomon’s Kingdom into 12 districts or tribes, then the schism between the Samaritans and the Hebrews of Judea, then the deportations of the Samaritans and then the Hebrews of Jerusalem to Babylon, then the contribution of Cyrus of Persia to the reconstruction of the temple of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC, then the Seleucid Dynasty that lasted two centuries, then the revolt of the Macabeans and their Kingdom that lasted less than a century, then the conquest of Pompeii, the Roman General, to the Levant, then the advent of Jesus Christ, the first Christian communities, the conclave of Nicee (Turkey) in 425 during Emperor Constantine, then the establishment of the Ashkenazi Hebraic Kingdom in the Caucasus till its destruction in 950, then the schism between Papal Rome and Constantinople around the year 1000, then the Crusaders’ campaigns that lasted a century, then the schism between Papal Rome and Martin Luther and Calvin in late 15th century, then the emergence of the various sects in England and then in the USA such as the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Baptists, and the New Conservative sects in the south of the USA, and finally, the re-colonization of Palestine by the Central Europe Ashkenazi Zionists in the 20th century.

 

Period one: Abraham was very familiar with the customs, traditions, and culture of the Land when he decided to settle in Canaan. Abraham was a genuine leader of the Land.  He paid the tribute, the tithe, to the highest priest of the Land Melki Sadek and recognized the high sacerdotal rank of Melki Sadek who worshiped El (pronounce Eel) as the all unifying God of the Land. Issac and Jacob also paid the tithe to the highest priest of the Land.

For example, Abraham had no piece of land in Canaan; his clan let their goats and sheep graze in unclaimed lands. As there was a death in the family Abraham resolved to prepare for his burial; he sent a third party to ask Afroun son of Sohar of the tribe of Hath for a small piece of land to bury the dead. Abraham said: “I am a guest in your land. Could you give me a swath so that I may bury what is in front of me?”  Every village had a burying ground facing east and guests, by the custom of hospitality, could be enjoying the same facilities. Afroun replied: “Abraham you are a reverend and I shall bury the deceased in the best of our graves” Abraham had set his mind to settle in Canaan and wanted his own burial ground, thus he asked to buy a piece of land.  Afroun replied: “A land of no more than 400 silver shekels should not be an obstacle” Abraham got the hint and sent the amount.  This polite and diplomatic negotiation is part of the Levant customs thousand of years before Abraham came to Canaan.

 

Period two:  Moses led all the strangers in Egypt who were ordered to leave because they supported the previous monarch Akhenaton. The tribes of Moses were swelled by other foreigners who left in a hurry with “unleavened bread”, meaning at night. Those Egyptian Hebrew tribes were not familiar with the culture and traditions of the Land.  They occupied land by the sword and committed genocide in every town they entered. For example, “Joshua (Yashou) son of Noun entered the town of Makid, and exterminated its inhabitants as he did with the king of Hebron (Ariha), then progressed to Lebna, then Lakish, then Horam, the Ajloun, then Habroun, then to Dabeer and killed the kings, destroyed the towns, slaughtered the handicapped, the babies and even the animals; any breathing inhabitant was massacred in these towns and villages”

The God of the Hebrew was called Jehovah, sort of a totem to discriminate themselves from the tribes of the Land.  The God of the Land was El and all the other minor Gods were sorts of patron saints to syndicates and towns that felt the need for an identity.  The Hebrew wanted Jehovah to establish a Kingdom on earth in any way available because their culture was different from the culture of the Levant.

Solomon got to appreciate the culture and civilization of the Land.  He cooperated and negotiated with the King of Tyr Ahiram to build the temple in Jerusalem and also to build a sea fleet.  The fleet was wrecked at its first attempt to take to the sea; they say “Les Hebraiques n’avaient pas the pied marin” (they had not the mariners’ feet). In fact, no Kingdom in Judea ever controlled the sea coast.

The Hebrews in Judea sank into abject materialism and developed 640 Laws to regulate their daily life.  Thus, the Hebrews of Moses viewed the inhabitants of the Land as their enemies to be subjugated and cowed into submission for the loot. The detailed gory tales in the Bible are mostly from that bloody period.

 

Period three: The original Jews of the Land and the indigents before the settlement of the Hebrews of Moses where chased out of Judea.  They regrouped in Samaria and Galilee “of Nations” and formed their own fiefdoms which were called Israel or the “Tribes of El” in Aramaic.  The “tribes” of Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali settled in Galilee and merged with the culture of the land. 

The Hebrews of Judea considered the districts of upper and lower Galilee as “Goyim” or gentile of many “Nations” but they viewed the Samaritans as Jews hostile to the strict Hebraic Laws and worshiping El instead of Jehovah. For a palpable political appreciation you may consider the split between the Sephardim and the Ashkenazi in current Israel. The Ashkenazi of Central Europe dominate the economic and policy making; a fresh immigrant from Europe can contemplate to rise quickly in the political and economic landscape while the Jews of the Arab and Moslem World have to fight the good fight for the crumbs. It is of no wonder that the Ashkenazi decided for Hebrew to be the national language that in no way compared to the versatile and rich Yiddish German/Slavic language they used to write and communicate with.  Hebrew was simply selected for its political connotation.  Galilee generated four prophets though the Pharisee caste mocked Jesus saying that “no prophets can come from Galilee”.

 

Period four: In 167 BC, the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epifanus banned the worshiping of Jehovah, forbid circumcision, and ordered burning the Bible; those decrees were executed efficiently and occasionally by harsh measures. Only the Hebrews of Judea revolted against these decrees; they were led by the priest Matatia of the Hashmonid tribe. Matatia’s son Judah, nicknamed Macabe (the handler of ax), resumed the revolt until he vanquished the Seleucid King.  From 166 to 63 BC the zealot Macabe Kingdom ruled the Land. In 103 BC, Aristopoulos, son of Simon Macabe, ordered every citizen to be circumcised and to abide by Moses’ Law.  Consequently, the non-Jews of Galilee were subjected to these rules, including the ancestors of Jesus Christ who lived in upper Galilee (current south Lebanon).  It is worth mentioning that much later, in 132 AC, Emperor Adrian banned circumcision and the Hebrews in Judea revolted; the revolt of Barcoba (son of the star) was squashed and the remaining Jews experienced the greatest dispersion.

During the Hellenistic period, God El was called Helios (the Greek added an H before an E at the beginning of a word; for example Heliopolis means the city of El)

As of the Bible: Customs in the Levant, part 1.  (March 14, 2009)

Note: I translated from the Arabic versions of the Bible because they convey more accurately the meaning of the life style and aphorisms in the Land of the Near East.  I intend to post a series of articles on the theme: “Customs and traditions in the Near East”    

All these customs and traditions of the Land in the Levant were practiced thousands of years before Judaism came to be.  The Jewish religion adopted the customs of the land and wrote in the same style of imagery, maxims, and aphorism. The original manuscripts describe accurately the culture of the land and in the same style.

Abraham had no piece of land in Canaan; his clan let their goats and sheep graze in unclaimed lands. As there was a death in the family Abraham resolved to prepare for his burial; he sent a third party to ask Afroun son of Sohar of the tribe of Hath for a small piece of land to bury the dead. Abraham said: “I am a guest in your land. Could you give me a swath so that I may bury what is in front of me?”  Every village had a burying ground facing east and guests, by the custom of hospitality, could be enjoying the same facilities. Afroun replied: “Abraham you are a reverend and I shall bury the deceased in the best of our graves” Abraham had set his mind to settle in Canaan and wanted his own burial ground, thus he asked to buy a piece of land.  Afroun replied: “A land of no more than 400 silver shekels should not be an obstacle” Abraham got the hint and sent the amount.  This polite and diplomatic negotiation is part of the Levant customs thousand of years before Abraham came to Canaan.

            Abraham told his head slave “Lay your hand under my thigh. Pray never let my son marry a Canaan girl amidst whom I am living but one from my tribe” This custom of placing hand under thighs is the custom of the land representing an oath; nowadays we insert the hand under the belt.  The custom also requires that the most respected in the family or clan is to propose on behalf of the father for the hand of a wife to his son.

            In the Levant, women leaven their dough overnight in clay pottery for the next day baking; the baking lasted a whole day for a week ration. The neighboring families would select a day to using the special oven dug in the ground.  The Jews were ordered to leave Egypt immediately.  They carried their unleavened dough in wooden boxes, as done in Egypt, and had to eat their bread barely leavened.  The shepherds in the fields in the Levant cook their own unleavened bread while at work.

            Gideon wanted to avoid paying tax on his wheat harvest.  The grape was not ripe yet and thus, Gideon used the top of his house to beat the wheat where grapes were pressed by feet.  He was hoping that the Midyanites would not discover his subterfuge.

            When Gideon gathered his “large army” to fight the Midyanites, God ordered Gideon to select the soldiers that stooped in front of the stream and drank off the palm of their hands.  That was the custom of the noble citizens in the land; the common people knelt and drank directly off the stream.  Thus, Gideon ended up with 300 soldiers who were deemed courageous, sober, and worthy to fight.

            Handicapped persons have a hard life in the Levant; they are nicknamed according to their handicaps and up very recently they were hidden from the public.  A handicapped woman got her courage and dared to touch the robe of Jesus and was cured.  Jesus told her: “Woman, it is your faith and not my cloth that cured you. Go in peace” Jesus was alluding to the custom that touching anything holy would cure or satisfy a want.

            “Thus spoken God; they will come carrying the little girls over the shoulders.  Kings will be your vassals and queens will nurse you” The custom of carrying kid girls over shoulders is not practiced in the west but in the Levant mother resume her daily tasks while the kid girls sit their shoulders and getting a hold on the head. The prophet Ashaya speaks in imageries that the “noble” class in the Levant expect the common people to practice in their presence.

            The same is true when John the Baptist said about the coming Messiah “I will be most honored if he permit me to untie his shoe lace” because feet were considered dirty parts of the body and stooping near feet is not acceptable and thus, the custom of sitting by the feet of a nobility is a mark of homage bestowed on him.

            Carrying the cross Jesus said “Sisters of Jerusalem, don’t cry over me.  Those who manhandled moist branches what they wouldn’t do with the dry ones?”  If the sacerdotal caste could sentence to death an innocent man then what you, sisters of Jerusalem, expect them to do with you and your children?  You should be starting to cry over your coming miseries and injustices.  Aphorisms on moist things versus dry ones, or bitter versus sweet tasty foods are many in the Levant

Note 2: The people in the Levant are people of faith; they refrain from rationally structuring their religion into dogma.  The early Christian communities relied on the custom of brotherhood and faith in the community. It is only when Christian communities were established in Greece and Rome that structuring got underway.  Hundreds of Christian sects mushroomed in the Levant according to a few alterations in the re-structuring of the dogma that spanned into political and self autonomous sects.  After the conclave of Nicee (Turkey) in 425, during the pagan Emperor Constantine, the Church got highly structured and hierarchical; the pagan ceremonies, symbols, and pageantry were introduced to win over the pagans who were in the majority.  Since then, persecution of the “heretic” Christian sects started and is still alive into modern time.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,428,330 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 775 other followers

%d bloggers like this: