Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Virgin Mary

Only 2 religions in Lebanon

In fact, there are 18 officially recognized sects in Lebanon, and they are ruling the political and social structure in Lebanon, from birth to death, and own more than 50% of the land.

On closer scrutiny, only two religions cover the wide umbrella of diversity.

1. One religion is trained to stoop. The other one to kneel, at best.

2. One religion is trained to pray in a single direction. The other one doesn’t care about directions, as long as it is not in the direction of the other religion.

3. One religion supposedly read in one Book. The other one has the choice of two dozen Books. (The early Christian sects had their own book to read and pray. And there were many dozens of sects before Byzantium decided to label them “heretics“)

4. One religion single book is not their preferred book: they prefer to read the Hadith ( the behaviors and chatting of their prophet). The other religion are not fussy about the details in their Books, as long as the telling of  Jesus parables are close enough.

5. One religion is trained to wash in a certain manner before prayer. The other one “suggests” that you should “look it clean and decent”

6. One religion demands that you leave your “shoes” outside the entrance of the praying chamber. The other one prefers that you step in your “ceremonial shoes

7. One religion is trained to pray in open air. The other one feels ashamed if  not in an enclosed structure.

8. One religion pray facing bare walls. The other one needs at least an icon facing him to worship, a dozen is preferable. (See note 2)

9. One religion believes in Houris after death. The other one has mixed feelings about the “Virgin Mary” (See note 1)

10. One religion is ever ready to transfer a room allocated for praying into a mosque. The other one insists on the room to be “consecrated” by a Bishop

11. One religion fast from sun up to sun down (no water, no food) and gains weight for eating all kinds of sweets all night long. The other one may selectively fast on what he thinks is craving for recently. And he gains weight eating too much of everything else.

12. One religion is tight-assed in public while exhibiting the worst of rascals’ behaviors in the privacy of their homes. The other one tries to show off how libertine he can be in public, and be as a rascal in private.

13. One religion believes in One God. The other one also claims that he believes in a single God, but actually worship the Saint or icon of his choice.

It is bewildering how two religions can branch out to two dozen sects. Each sect as stupid as the next one. No badge of honor for levels of stupidity.

Note 1: The German emperor Guillaume II entered Jerusalem in 1908 and was allowed to rebuild a church dedicated to the Virgin. The church became a Lutheran Temple.

The protestants look down on the Virgin because she degraded Jesus to a mortal human, instead of being a God at a par with his father. As Guillaume landed in Beirut on his way to Damascus, the Lebanese were summoned to stay home and never welcome the emperor in the streets. At night, the people were asked to turn off all their lights so that the emperor ride in total darkness.

The emperor was hugely displeased from this silent treatment.  Possibly, there is a link between this treatment and the Turks forcing the Lebanese to starve to death during WWI, since Turkey was a vassal to Germany.

Maybe the Lebanese can be united around the Virgin against any potentates who dares to denigrates the status of Mary. Actually, the Annunciation Day that Mary will be pregnant with Christ is a national holiday.

Famine hecatomb in Lebanon https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/famine-hecatomb-in-lebanon-1915-18/

Note 2: Islam forbids images, pictures and statutes of the prophet and saint people. The Wahhabi sect in Saudi Arabia forbids also the pilgrimage to shrines of saint people: All shrines are burned and ruined when they occupy a country.

The Protestants in the US feel an affinity with the Wahhabi sect, maybe with the exclusion of the drastic and obscurantist punishments meted out according to Shari3a.

Who is Peter, Jesus disciple? Where is this town of Shame3 in Lebanon?

Apparently, the Moslem Shia sect in Lebanon consider Peter (Simon), Jesus disciple, as a prophet and a close cousin to Mary.  The Virgin Mary was his aunt from both her mother and father sides. Simon, Peter…is also known as Shimon Safa in the town of Shama3 near the city of Tyr. Safa means the lean stone in Arabic, Kifa in Syriac, and Peter in Greek.

Peter was born around 10 BC and lived in the town of 7amoul or (Hamoun) near the village of Nakoura in South Lebanon.  Peter’s father was Hamoun Bin 3aama in the town still known as Hamoul where he is buried.

Hamous had two sisters: Hanneh and Elizabeth. Hanneh married Omran and gave birth to Mary. The mother of Peter is the sister of Omran.

In the year 64, Peter fled Rome after Niro escalated his persecution of the Christian, and settled in Babylon by the River Euphrates for a while. He wrote a letter to the community of Karkisia by the Euphrates River.  Peter travelled to Palestine and when the Jewish revolt (66 to 70 AC) started persecuting the Christian, Peter fled to Northern Galilee (Tyr district) in 67, but the Jews followed him and killed him by a blow on the head. Peter was 77 year-old.

The community of his ancestors in Hamoul buried him there by his mother in the town of Shama3, which is short for Shimon.  The upper story is one thousand year old, but the lower one is pretty ancient. Thousand of Moslems make the pilgrimage to Peter’s tomb every year, especially during the celebration of the 40 days of Hussein martyrdom.

An inscription on the two-story tomb reads: “Peace on the prophet of God, peace on you Shimon Safa, peace on you and on the prophet of God…” People in that region have a saying: “O Shimon Safa, your secret has not disappeared”

Shimon and his brother Andrew were fishermen and threw the net in Lake Tiberiad (Tabaraya).  Before Tiberiad, they learned the profession of fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, in current south Lebanon.

Most of Jesus disciples were close cousins and close relatives from the district of Tyr (Lebanon):  This should come as no surprise for normal people.  As Jesus was standing trial, all the disciples huddled in a remote house and dared not step out for a week.  The disciples were scared, but mostly ashamed for following this “insane cousin of them” who kept his silence and refused to defend himself.  An insane cousin who ended up crucified like common criminals, between two confirmed criminals. An insane cousin who had no one to support him after a “King” entrance to Jerusalem a week ago, mounted on a donkey! An insane cousin they had high expectation to becoming an important personality and honoring the extended family back in upper Galilee in the district of Tyr (current south Lebanon).

People are suckers for stories. When a person likes a story, the story takes a life of its own.  What if the story is loved by 2 billion people (Christians and Moslems)?

The story goes that attitudes changed after Jesus reappeared to the disciples…and Peter was not crucified in Rome, upside down, as the Church of Rome found it convenient as a credible story…

Note: This post was inspired by an article by Hala Homsi in the daily Al Nahar. The reference is author Ali Dawood Jaber “Shimon Safa: the in-between Christianity and Islam”

I demand freedom to pay tribute to my Idol

People are more inclined to be loyal to a saint, a shrine, or an honored Imam, or apostle.

People have need to use their senses to get connected to a spiritual entity: you cannot expect human to think exclusively on abstract notion without the intermediary of their senses of seeing a representative picture, of smelling incense, of touching a bust, or of listening to a hymn.

One God who created man and the universe is fine, but is not sufficient for man.  Several Gods doing the job is more convincing and pragmatic: specialization is highly valued.

Monotheism is a totally abstract concept that no human was yet able to feel physically loyal to a one, all encompassing God.

Ever since man descended from his tree, his prime concern was struggling for his freedom to pay tribute to his favorite Idol God.

Fear of the many dangers threatening his survival forced man to seeking a much more powerful ally to protect him and come to the rescue.  Depending on his wide spectrum of phobia, man wanted the total freedom to worship and be loyal to his “loyal” companions in times of imminent dangers.

Man would not take for granted Idols imposed upon him; he wanted his personal choices that most satisfied his psychological world.  Freedom of belief is not a modern concept; man fought all his life and for millennia for this natural right and is continuing the struggle.

I noticed lately that my dad, at each pass in front of the Virgin Mary or Mar Charbel (a Lebanese National Saint), has to touch these pictures in the house with his index, kiss his index, and then sign the cross.

Dad is 85 years old and has refrained attending mass for years.  Mother is also devoted to the Virgin and all the national female saints such as Rafqa; she never misses an occasion to get in the car or a bus going to pay tributes to shrines; she pay money, that she has not, for the Saint so that the church make “good” use of it.

Obviously, Mar Charbel is in her pantheon too, along with the newly beatified Hardini.  Interestingly, miracles have a way of occurring at election times.

In all ages, whether a religion claim to be monotheist or polytheist people end up selecting a particular idol to pay allegiance to and write ex-votos to Him in order to be cured, enjoy prosperity, safety to the family, and safe travels.

Indeed, people are loyal idolater to whom they perceive to be pretty much handy, accessible, and an excellent intermediary to the One God.

For example, in Latin America people are loyal to the Virgin Mary and cannot think of any other Saint to turn to in time of distress; thus, St. Mary of (name a city or a village), or the Virgin of (name a city or a town) and you have hundreds of Virgin Maries, tailored made to a specific locality, ready to come to the rescue.

The Greek Orthodox Church cannot think of more than three female saints to name girls at baptismal ceremonies: it must be either Mary, Ann, or Elisabeth; as for male kids you have an assortment of complicated and long Greek saints with plenty of X and Ch.

In predominantly Moslem Egypt, and generally in North Africa, you have St. Fatima, Aicha, Ali, Hussein, the Imam of the regional legal sect, or the shrine of the veneered Sheikh of a locality is paid more attention and visits to any other worshiping figures.

Pictures of Moslem saints are prohibited in public places or in mosques but that do not prevent homes to hang pictures of their preferred saint as relevant to current standards of beauty for both genders.

There is this myth that the Jewish religion is the first to adopting monotheism; it is just a myth. 

Ancient civilizations were never monotheists; they all had an overall God, nominally superior to the other demi-gods but that nobody paid much attention to or prayed to Him or even remembered asking his help in ex-votos.

God El was the all encompassing God in the Middle East as was Allah in the Arab Peninsula or Zeus for the Greeks, but He never generated a dime to tribes that had exclusive rights to his worship.

People converged to more palpable and understandable demy-gods; cities and towns adopted one of them as symbol and recognition of their trades or power.  In general, more weight was given to the “messengers of a God” (they were written in plural) than to a specific God.

Yahweh (God of thunder) was one of the Gods to the Jews after Moses introduced Him during the long crossing of Sinai and the worship of the “golden cow”: the Jews had, before and after Moses, many regional demy-Gods who did exist even if at periods they were forbidden to be worship.

Jews might have converged to a unique God in Judea in the second century BC.  Many of Canaan demy-Gods were far more beneficial and interesting than this newly created Yahweh that came into the picture during war periods. In war time, Jewish mercenaries were asked to support Baal under the banner of the dusted off Temple and bust of Yahweh.

Salomon worshiped Ashtarout (the Goddess of Sidon in Lebanon), and idol Baal had many Temples in Jerusalem while Yahweh had only one.

One common denominator to all salafist or extremist religious sects (Christian, Jewish, Moslems, or cults) is being totally peeved and obfuscated that the One True God is being sidetracked for substitutes.

Joshua offered the Jews choices of keeping Yahweh as sole God or accepting other demy-Gods.  When the Jews decided to keep exclusively a “tribal” God then Joshua ordered all strangers’ Gods destroyed. In ancient time, destroying the bust of a God didn’t mean that he no longer existed, but that the local God was to be more efficient to the survival of the tribe or community.

When Prophet Mohammad entered Mecca without a fight, after 9 years of taking Yathreb as his headquarter for his companions, he ordered all the 160 idols destroyed or effaced (pictures) save two: Allah and the Virgin Mary.

Mary was not bestowed virginity at all but she was veneered as the mother of the latest great prophet Jesus (Issa).  In Islam, idols were no longer Gods and never existed as was the case in ancient cultures.

The early Protestants erased pictures and destroyed busts of all Saints except crucified Jesus.  For the Protestants, erasing pictures of Saints didn’t mean that Saints didn’t exist but they were not that worthy to be worshiped and supplant God through the interceding process.

The most honest monotheists were the “heretic” Christian sects that the Orthodox Christian Church during the Byzantium Empire persecuted relentlessly.  Most of these sects would not even bestow a divine nature to Jesus, and Marie was not virgin by any means; no pictures or drawings were permitted for any Saints.

The farthest that these sects could indulge in is to veneer the apostle whom they claimed to have written the “true” Testament they adopted and read in.  The Nestorian sect proselytized in China and translated its Bible in Chinese in around the year 600; it built churches all along the “silk road”.  Thus, you don’t need to create saints along with pictures and busts to have the faith that travels to China.

I have noticed that:

1. centralized churches promote many saints with pictures and busts; it is a tactic to please the people so that it may enjoy total control over their temporal existence;

2. that these centralized churches inherited pagan religions aided a lot to the widespread propagation of multiple idols for each locality.

Decentralized religions have no urge to promote idols and pictures such as in Islam: it is the temporal power at every state that appoints clergies, Imams, and sheikhs.

I don’t see why all that fuss for monotheism.

If a few tribes still refuse to believe that it is earth rotating around the sun or that earth is flat, why then submerge them with an extra abstract notion?

Killing and committing suicide attacks in the name of a God is not an abstract act; this does not mean that human mind cannot reach a level of distortion that far surpasses the mere abstraction of a One God, creator of man and the universe.

Note 1:  This is a revised version of my post “Mono-idolatry (monolatry) or monotheism? (Nov. 6, 2009)

Note 2: The Christian Greek Orthodox is the church of Byzantium that persecuted the “heretic” Maronites in the year 1,000 and forced them to settle in the northern mountain chains of Lebanon. Decades later, the Maronite allied to the Church of Rome  and has been a steady ally to France since then.

These persecutions took place at a period the Moslem Arabic empire was disintegrating into small fiefdoms and Byzantium re-conquered the coastal portion in Turkey and Syria. The second crusade campaign burned Constantinople and occupied the lands of Byzantium in Turkey, Syria, all the way to Jerusalem.

Note 3: The various Protestant sects have similarity with the Wahhabi Moslem sect by discarding icons and pictures of saints in their place of worship.  The Wahhabi makes it a trend to demolish any worshiping place that is decorated with pictures, icon, and shrines, whether they are Christians or Moslems…

Mono-idolatry (monolatry) or monotheism? (Nov. 6, 2009)

Monotheism is a totally abstract concept that no human was yet able to feel physically loyal to a one, all-encompassing God.

The reality is that people are more inclined to be loyal to a saint, a shrine, or an honored Imam, or apostle.

People have need to use their senses to get connected to a spiritual entity: you cannot expect human to think exclusively of an abstract notion without the intermediary of their senses of seeing a representative picture, of smelling incense, of touching a bust, or of listening to a hymn.

I noticed that my dad, at each pass in front of the Virgin Mary or Mar Charbel (a national Saint), has to touch these pictures in the house with his index, kiss his index, and then sign the cross.  Dad is 85 years old and has refrained attending mass for years.

Mother is also devoted to the Virgin and all the national female saints such as Rafqa; she never misses an occasion to get in the car or a bus going to pay tributes to shrines; she pay money for the Saint that she has Not, so that the church make “good” use of it; obviously, Mar Charbel is in her pantheon too, along with the newly beatified Hardini.  It is interesting that most “miracles” occur at election times.

In all ages, whether a religion claim to be monotheist or polytheist people end up selecting a particular idol to pay allegiance to and write ex-votos to Him in order to be cured, enjoy prosperity, safety to the family, and safe travels.

Indeed, people are loyal idolaters to whom they perceive to be pretty much handy, accessible, and an excellent intermediary to the One God.

For example, in Latin America people are loyal to the Virgin Mary and cannot think of any other Saint to turn to in time of distress; thus, St. Mary of (name a city or a village), or the Virgin of (name a city or a town) and you have hundreds of Virgin Marie, tailored made to a specific locality, ready to come to the rescue.

The Greek Orthodox Church cannot think of more than two female saints to name girls at baptism ceremonies: it must be either Mary or Elizabeth; as for male kids you have an assortment of complicated and long Greek saints with plenty of X and Ch.

In Muslim Egypt and generally in North Africa, you have St. Fatima, Aicha, Ali, Hussein, the Imam of the legal sect, or the shrine of the veneered Sheikh of a locality is paid more attention and visits to any other worshiping figures.

Pictures of Muslim saints are prohibited in public places or in mosques but that do not prevent homes to hang pictures of their preferred saint as relevant to current standards of beauty for both genders.

There is this myth that the Jewish religion is the first to adopt monotheism; it is just a myth.

Ancient civilizations were never monotheists; they all had an overall God, nominally superior to the other demigods but that nobody paid much attention to or prayed to Him or even remembered asking his help in ex-votos.

El was the all-encompassing God in the Middle East as was Allah in the Arabian Peninsula or Zeus for the Greeks but He never generated a dime to tribes that had exclusive rights to his worship.

People converged to more palpable and understandable demigods and cities and towns adopted one of them as symbol and recognition of their trades or power.

In general, more weight was given to the “messengers of a God” (they were written in plural) than to a specific God.

Yahweh (God of thunder and war) was always one of the Gods to the Jews after Moses but might have converged to be the unique God to the Jews in Judea in the second century BC.

Many of Canaan demigods were far more beneficial and interesting than this newly created Yahweh that came into the picture during war periods. Then, Jewish mercenaries were asked to support Baal under the banner of the dusted off Temple and bust of Yahweh.

Salomon worshipped Ashtarout (the Goddess of Sidon of Lebanon) and Baal had many Temples in Jerusalem while Yahweh had only a small one.

One common denominator to all salafist or extremist religious sects (Christian, Jewish, Muslims, or cults) is being totally peeved and obfuscated that the One True God is being sidetracked for substitutes.

Joshua offered the Jews choices of keeping Yahweh as sole God or accepting other demigods.

When the Jews decided to keep exclusively a “tribal” God, then Joshua ordered all strangers’ Gods destroyed.

In ancient time, destroying the bust of a God didn’t mean that he no longer existed but that the local God was to be more efficient to the survival of the tribe or community.

When the Prophet Muhammad entered Mecca without a fight he ordered all the 160 idols destroyed or effaced (pictures) save two: Allah and the Virgin Mary.

Mary was not bestowed virginity at all, but she was veneered as the mother of the latest great prophet Jesus (Issa).

In Islam, idols were no longer Gods and never existed as was the case in ancient cultures. The early Protestants erased pictures and destroyed busts of all Saints except crucified Jesus.

For the Protestants, erasing pictures of Saints didn’t mean that Saints didn’t exist but they were not that worthy to be worshiped and supplant God through interceding.

The most honest monotheists were the “heretic” Christian sects that the Orthodox Christian Church during the Byzantine Empire persecuted relentlessly.

Most of these sects would not even bestow a divine nature to Jesus and Marie was not virgin by any means; no pictures or drawings were permitted for any Saints.

The farthest that these sects could indulge in is to veneer the apostle whom they claimed to have written the “true” Testament they adopted and read in.

I have noticed that centralized churches promote many saints with pictures and busts; it is a tactic to please the people so that it may enjoy total control over their temporal existence.

These centralized churches inherited pagan religions and aided a lot to that widespread propagation of multiple idols for each locality.

Decentralized religions have no urge to promoting idols and pictures such as in Islam: it is the temporal power at every state that appoints clerics, Imams, and sheiks.

I don’t see why all that fuss for monotheism.

If a few tribes still refuse to believe that it is earth rotating around the sun or that earth is flat why then submerge them with an extra abstract notion?

Killing and committing suicide attacks in the name of a God is not an abstract act; this does not mean that human mind cannot reach a level of distortion that far surpasses the mere abstraction of a One God, creator of man and the universe.

Julia or Julie (May 1, 2009)

I happened to know Julia intimately: I was forced to observe her behaviors and sometimes succumb to her will.

Julia is the type of women who are always on alert; she is ultra prude and claims that she has never been on a beach or wore any kinds of swimming trunks.

Julie cannot sit down, relax, or let anyone relax.  She has to worry about everyone and everything.

Julia loves money but never handled money wrote a check or had a bank account: She is thrilled when she sees construction and buildings going up and sounds envious.

Yes, Julia has never set foot in a bank or wrote a check or withdrew money, I think.

Julia is an excellent cook, a talented dress designer (currently you say a fashion designer), and sew clothes to all her sisters, daughters… for every major event.

And loves to remodel the house when she can afford it, a gene that my sister inherited.

She wants her family members (especially the girls and ladies) to look as well dressed and as coquettish as she used to be; a tendency that forces her grandchildren and children to avoid passing by her when they have “sinned” against dignified fashion (like looking pretty nude).

Julia has humongous pride and she would not visit a patient or go to any anniversary when she cannot afford gifts (her unique daughter is taking after her in many ways).

If she receives a gift (and if she cannot afford offering a gift) then she has to rummage through her secret “depot” in one of the closets for a suitable counter gift.

Lately, cooking something for the returned dish is what she could offer. Julia believes that she knows something and has to offer her recommendations and guidance to people of professions, even if they are over sixty.

In 1939, Julia’s mother Eugenia left Lebanon to West Africa in order to join her husband Tanios in Segou (current State of Mali). The four sisters were left alone and joined a boarding school in Beit Chabab.

And the WWII started and they had to skip school for the duration.  The sisters did not attend school for 3 years during the war because all schools closed, although Lebanon was not directly affected.

The eldest sister Josephine was 13 and Julia 11 years old at the time.

Julia’s aunt and her extended family lived across the street. When Josephine eloped (got married “khatifeh“) at the age of 20 the other three sisters were re-interned in a school of Beit Chabab for two years.

The summer before the non-married daughters had to join their parents in Segou, they lived alone a mile away from Beit-Chabab (to what is now called Konetra) so that they don’t emulate their eldest sister in eloping.  In the meanwhile, Eugenia gave birth to many other children and at least three died in child-birth.

Julia once believed that she had scabies “jarab” when she was in a girl school in Beirut and aged 18 years.  Scabies was pretty common and when her between hand fingers  were itching she tried to cure herself secretly.

Julia told me said that “jarab” was very contagious; she secretly spent a whole week in an upper room at her sister Josephine’s who got married recently.  Julia said that nobody in the village knew about her ailment, a convenient assumption for this dreaded disease at the period, and she washed her clothes and bedding almost everyday.

This story came about when an overseas grand daughter called saying that her physician was uncertain about his diagnosis of her catching “jarab”; the diagnosis turned out to be wrong but it generated a secret story that Julia told me.

I really have no idea what Julia learned in school except cutting patrons and learning sewing and fashioning clothes. She always said that she got dizzy when reading.

Julia joined her parents in Africa by sea. The captain of the ship heading toward the port of Marseilles never believed that she’ll make it alive: Julia spent a month in her cabin unable to eat, drink or move because she suffered sea sickness.

Julia was as thin as a stick with a tough will for survival.

Any moving object makes Julia dizzy; heights make Julia dizzy; tree climbing is out of the picture.  Hell for Julia must be a rotating platform; worst, a wobbly, jerky, and seesaw habitat.

In fact, Julia never played games in school or anywhere else.

Physical games, especially for girls, are not dignified. Reading is extremely dizzying to Julia; watching someone reading intently must be giving Julia grounds to believing that the reader is “dizzy” in the head.

Julia married in Africa a handsome, loyal, over generous and devoted husband whom she fell in love in the same town in Lebanon before she travelled to Africa.

George must have sensed that he is marrying a handful of expectations and constraints.  Youth always turns a blind eye to potential troubles because youth can handle anything and never ages.

This valiant couple worked hard in harsh conditions as the sole white people in remote African villages.  They were robbed of every dime several times; once, in the town of Koutiala (Republic of Mali) and what they had saved was gone overnight; Julia was on her last week of pregnancy (of me) and George suffered kidneys problems out of grief.

Right now, when any neighboring house or shop is stolen Julia plays the investigator; everyone is suspect until the culprit is discovered: she does roam her house after every robbery story, checking exits and entrances; mouse and cats should no longer be susceptible to be entering the house.

Those 15 years in Africa must have been the best and most glorious years for this couple. They were the first to purchase an electric generators in the town of Sikasso.

This undaunted couple resumed their joint adventure to above average fortune.

Julia knew how to combine business with charity; she would offer every poor pregnant woman a “trousseau” for the new-born for free. Thus, she retained life-long customers and the competitors could not match her business acumen.

Julia sewed and altered dresses that she ordered by catalog from Paris.

When Julia returned definitely to Lebanon, her unique daughter among the other 2 boys, (well spaced them out in age, an advanced serious family planning), was never seen wearing the same dress twice in any ceremony.

Since two identical dresses take as much time to sew as one, then her niece Joelle was observed as a replicate twin, regardless of whether Joelle liked the dress or the color.

This couple was the first to install a generator for electricity in this remote town.  They transferred their three kids to boarding schools in Lebanon for fear of African diseases  because the eldest son barely survived Typhoid. And the couple would visit them one summer every two years.

Julia spent a month in Paris in 1980 to care for her first grandson William who had an open heart surgery at the age of 16 months.  William had a hole that mixed the blue and red blood in the heart and an artery that was twisted. The hospital offered a makeshift bed for Julia to sleep on for 23 days in William’s emergency room.

Julia also cared for Joanna, her favorite grandchild, for over 6 months when Joanna’s parents were in the USA on military training mission in 1985.

Joanna likes to return the favor and she volunteers to driving Julia to shrines such as Mar Charbel, Mar Rafka, and Harissa of the Virgin Mary; these are occasions for Julia to confess her grave sins for caring too much and doubting occasionally.

Julia spent 6 months in the USA in 1990 when I lived with my sister Raymonde’s family; Victor was then appointed Military Attaché to Lebanon for two years and Julia enjoyed that reprieve from war torn Lebanon and the constant blackmailing of the militias for more money when there was nothing to pay. She had to pawn her few gold rings or necklaces to appease the frightened husband.

Julia recalls that it was the hardest trip ever when she visited in the US: Victor had a terrible backache and she had to carry Victor’s bags which were packed with heavy gifts.

Julia is suffering from arthritis and a whole gamut of blood problems but she forces herself to work hard everyday as means to letting pain forget her.

She has excellent memory of ancient events.  Currently, she barely can recall names and I barely can come to the recall rescue.

Julia is currently prone to letting two casseroles burns and barely save the third: she cannot waste time and has to do several tasks simultaneously.

Julia cannot believe that she aged and has a wrinkled face. All mirrors must be destroyed but Julia would never break anything consciously.

George neither cannot believe that he aged; he just want to be left alone and not be immersed in problems that should not be of his concerns, especially that he is no longer a provider and almost destitute; but to whom are you chanting your psalms George?

George is happy to realize that his hearing is not that sharp and gets terribly frustrated when he has to repeat muted answers to Julia’s unending queries and requests.

Julia barely sleeps at night because in the solitude of the night her brain is working full-time inventing all kind of catastrophic events that might befall on any one of her extended family.

Her dreams are of the cataclysmic kinds, though one individual at a time, one dead person after another parading in succession in her dream.  Apparently, nights are more exhausting for Julia than charged days’ work.

When Julia walks out now she is constantly observing changes in her environment; such as the progress in the construction of the villa next door, the new design for neighbors gardens…

There was a time when Julia walked straight ahead and never deigning to turn her head:  She must have been convinced that she was the center of attention; she stepped out in utter elegance and vigorous gait.

Julia’s nemesis is death: when she gets upset from any member of the family she tends to ward off this fatal enemy by threatening: “This winter would be my last and you all would be delivered from my trouble making”. She has a white fancy gown stowed away for that occasion.  I hope that Julia has let someone on the proper location of the dress.

Julia is the strong type of women. Julia cannot be circumvented.

Julia is every bit on alert, the “mustanfara“, even at 83 years of age.  She is totally broke financially but that would not constitute a valid reason to let down her purpose in life: Keeping everyone on his toes.  Julia is my mother.

Note: Four years after writing this article Julia is unchanged: She is in much pain, more forgetful, and taking all kinds of medication, but Julia is undaunted. I realized that Julia is chatting far more than usual: She is thinking aloud, kind of her thinking keeps the right track if accompanied by words.

Julia wakes up at 6:30 am and begin her day, working non-stop till after 1 pm as her back aches and her fingers are crippled. Her husband, only 3 years older, doesn’t take any medication but his health is deteriorating fast and George is almost bed-ridden.

George is in  care and recovering. Julia refuses to go home to rest even for a couple of hours: She has to stay and sleep in the hospital room of her husband. The nurses tell Julia not to feed George what the hospital does not bring to eat, and I tell Julia not to feed George, and Julia believes she knows George better and what is good for George…

I tell Julia that George enjoys loneliness and would not recover as long as she never leaves his side and keeps chattering. Maybe I am wrong: I was showing George how to ring the nurses for emergencies and George chuckled softly and replied: “Why would I ring anyone when Julia is around?”

Julia is saying: “It was a good tradition to marry a husband at least 5 years older than you: So that the wife can care for him in old age...”. Joanna flew from London for a weekend just to give Julia  a boost. The moment Julia receives a boost, it sounds trouble for the extended family.

Note 2: Julia passed away at age of 92 on January 31, 2020 at 2 pm at the hospital of Beit-Chabab. Except for her heart, her vital organs started to fail. She endured unthinkable pains for an entire week, every minutes of it. She was Not feeling good before she fell in the bathroom trying to undress: there was no one at the time and I found her lying on the floor in great pain.

The Bibles: A Repository of the Customs in the Near East (March 25, 2009)

  

Note 1:  I have published 5 posts on the theme of customs and tradition in the Near East and mostly extracted from the Bibles, Old and New, with some development and clarifications to the benefit of the western civilizations. 

This series of posts was inspired by the book that I reviewed “The Syrian Christ” by Abraham Metrie Rihbany. The book was published 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 predicators are fond of using on the ground that abstract concepts don’t need any historical, geographic, or people’s customs context.

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 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.

Note 2: The Bibles are not famous for historical accuracy: 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 5 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 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 and Levant group Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria as one Land that the Bibles describe the customs and tradition of its people.

 

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 7 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; diary 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 (kawarma) 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 77 times 7 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 four characteristics in the Levantine customs:

1. 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” “siboulat”.

2. 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.

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

4. 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 coq.  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 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”

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 biter 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”.

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 Born 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 because people went barefoot or wearing thongs at best. 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.  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 1: 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 2:  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.

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?  Origins of Jesus Christ; Chapter two, (March 20, 2009)

Joachim (Youwakeem) Omram and Hanna, the parents of the Virgin Mary, were from the village of Qana (10 kilometers south of the city of Tyr and at an altitude of 85 meters; this Qana was called Qana of Upper Galilee and was within the district of Phoenicia during the Seleucid and early Roman Empires in the Near East (Levant). The administrative district of Upper Galilee extended from Tyr to Acre).

Joachim was one of the eminent personalities in the town of Qana and the neighboring region and was an Essenes 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 her to the Great Temple on Mount Carmel (Mount Carmel was also in the district of Phoenicia).  When Mary was 3 years of age she was interned in the monastery of the Great Temple of the Carmel.  Mary was one of the 12 virgins of the elite families in the region to be dedicated to serve in the temple and she was named “The Pigeon of God Eil“. (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 the village of Bethlehem Tifone by the Carmel, close to the famous city of Dora by the seaside and north of current Haifa within the district of Phoenicia (not in the Bethlehem of Judea).  Mary visited her aunt Elizabeth in Galilee who was 6 months pregnant.  Jesus was presented to the Great Temple of Mount Carmel for sanctification; Jesus was lost in the same temple discussing with the priests when he was 12 of years. Jesus studied in the schools of Mount Carmel.

Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem by the Carmel. The town of Nazareth did not exist yet and the area was called Nazareth. When Joseph died, Mary returned to her hometown of Qana where her father and grandparents were buried; Jesus spent his youth in Qana. 

Jesus was called “Jesus of Mary” after the death of Joseph to distinguish him from the other people named Jesus. (The Hebrews of Judea never referred a son to his mother). Mary was also called “the sister of Jacob”.  Hanna had remarried after the death of Joachim and gave birth to 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),  thus, God was made human.  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 Tiberias to join the wedding.  After the wedding, Mary and the brothers of Jesus (Jacob, Joseph, Simon, and Judah) followed him down to Capernaum by the Lake and stayed there for a few days and then were part of Jesus’ party from then on.

Jesus was highly educated.  He could speak Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The folk tales and early manuscripts demonstrate that Jesus studied Law and taught Law at the university in Sidon (Lebanon).  Jesus was born in the year 7 BC and Caesar’s census started in the year 10 BC. 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 dressed in the same long white robe that the Essenes sect of Mount Carmel wore; the consecrated members were called “The White Brethren” and they were famous as healers.  The Essenes 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, baptized with water as of the Essenes traditions and baptized Jesus.


 
Note 1: Jesus was elevated to Heaven on Mount Carmel. The first church was built on Mount Carmel and dedicated to the Virgin Mary while still alive.  A church was built within the town of  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 2: Qana is famous today because Israel massacred over 100 civilians and gravely injured 120 when her bombs targeted a UN compound in Qana in 1996 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 lapidation of the first martyr Etienne (Estefanos).

Note 3: I may conjecture that 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 bestow the title of nun and priest for even those who later relinquished their sacerdotal duties.

Note 4: The astrophysicist Reznicoff confirms that the Comet Halley that showed the way to the mages crossed Galilee and not Judea.

Note 5:  There are indications that Jesus entered Jerusalem for the first time when he was to be crucified.  No wonder that Jesus experienced a cultural chock when he witnessed business and usury transactions within the temple. Jesus got hold of a whip and chased out the merchants and turned their tables over and declared: “It is said that the temple is the house of God and not a cavern for thieves”.

The Virgin Mary is from the town of Qana in Lebanon; Book Review; (March 17, 2009)

The reverend Father Youssef Yamine has recently published a book in Arabic “Jesus Christ was born in Lebanon”. 

The manuscript is of 730 pages and divided into four big chapters:

1. The other Bethlehem in the district of Phoenicia,

2. Who is Christ historically?

3. The Bethlehem of Canaan in the New Testaments, and

4.  Christ was born in the district of Phoenicia, and the Virgin Mary is from and was born in Qana (Lebanon). 

This voluminous book is packed with documentation, references, maps, and archeological facts.  I will reserve details in a series of notes at the end in order to recount smoothly the biography of the extended family of Jesus.

 

The story of the birth of Jesus goes as follows.

Joachim Omram and Hanna, the parents of the Virgin Mary, were from the village of Qana (ten kilometers south-east of the city of Tyr and at an altitude of 85 meters).  This town of Qana was called Qana of Upper Galilee and was within the district of Phoenicia during the Seleucid and early Roman Empires).  Joachim was one of the eminent personalities in the town of Qana and the region.  He was a priest and had been frustrated because he could not secure any descendents.

Joachim (Yuwakeem) 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 her to the Great Temple on Mount Carmel (Mount Carmel was also in the district of Phoenicia). 

When Mary was 3 years of age, she was interned in the monastery of the Great Temple in Carmel.  Mary was one of the 12 virgins of the elite families in the region to be dedicated to serve in the temple and she was named “The Pigeon of Eel (God)“. (The Jews in Judea never allowed girls to serve in temples).

Joseph (future husband of Mary) 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 and Joseph got married and Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem Tifone by the Carmel, close to the famous city of Dora by the seaside and north of current city of Haifa, within the district of Phoenicia (not in the Bethlehem of Judea). 

Mary visited her aunt Elizabeth in Galilee who was 6 months pregnant.  Jesus was presented to the Great Temple of Mount Carmel for sanctification. Jesus was lost in the same temple discussing with the priests when he was 12 of years. Jesus studied in the schools of Mount Carmel.

Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem by the Carmel. The town of Nazareth did not exist yet and the area was called Nazareth. When Joseph died Mary returned to her hometown of Qana where her father and grandparents were buried.

Jesus spent his youth in Qana. 

Jesus was called “Jesus of Mary” to distinguish him from the other Jesus.  Mary was also called “the sister of Jacob“:  Hanna had remarried after the death of Joachim and gave birth to 4 offspring; the eldest son of Hanna was apparently Jacob.

           

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 and came up from Lake Tiberias to join the wedding. 

After the wedding, Mary and the brothers of Jesus (Jacob, Joseph, Simon, and Judah) followed him down to Cafarnaom (Capernaum) by the Lake and stayed there for a few days and then joined Jesus’ party from then on. 

            Qana of Upper Galilee (The Galilee of Nations) was the location where the disciples gathered for a while after the dilapidation of the first martyr Etienne. 

 Note 1: Mary received the “Good Tiding” from the Archangel while serving in Mount Carmel. Jesus was elevated to Heaven on Mount Carmel. The first church was built on Mount Carmel. 

A church was constructedt in the town of Qana by the disciples and the Moslems venerate the tomb of Joachim called “The tomb of the prophet Omran“. 

Qana was an important town for many centuries before Christ, and it became the main resting place of the disciples before venturing any further.

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 2: Qana is famous today because Israel massacred over 100 civilians and gravely injured 120 when her bombs targeted a UN compound in Qana in 1996.  Israel hit that same town again in 2006 and killed 50 more civilians.  

 

Note 3: I may conjecture that 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 bestow the title of nun and priest for even those who later relinquished their sacerdotal duties.

 

Note 4:  I may be bold to offer another conjecture.  Joachim was sterile and Hanna was impregnated by her relative who later became her second husband.

 

Note 5:  Jesus was not Jewish. His family and ancestors were forced by the Jewish King Arestopoulos to abide by Moses’ Law and be circumcised since the year 103 BC.

The Jewish historian of the Jews Josephus never mentioned Jesus or the crucifixion: Jesus was not considered a Jew!

 

Note 6: Jesus was highly educated.  He could speak Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He studied Law and taught Law at the university in Sidon (Lebanon)

 

Note 7:  The name Jesus is also called Emanuel (Amanueel) which mean “Eel (God) is among us”. Thus, “God was made human“.

 

Note 8: The astrophysicist Reznicoff confirms that the Comet Halley that showed the way to the sages crossed Galilee and not Judea.

 

Note 9:  Jesus was born in the year 7 BC and Caesar’s census was done in the year 10 BC, 3 years before Jesus birth.

 

Note 10: Herod the Great learned about the birth of the “King of the Jews” from the magies as he was boarding a ship in Akka (Acre) to Rome. 

No historian ever confirmed the mass killing of males of two years and less during the reign of Herod.

 

Note 11:  There are indications that Jesus entered Jerusalem for the first time when he was crucified. 

No wonder that Jesus experienced a cultural chock when he witnessed business and usury transactions within the temple.

Jesus got hold of a whip and chased out the merchants and turned their tables over and declared: “It is said that the temple is the house of God and not a cavern for thieves”.

 

Note 12:  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”

 

Note 13:  Jesus wore the same long white robe that the Essenes sect of Mount Carmel wore; the consecrated members were called “The White Brethren” and they were famous as healers. 

The Essenes had many branches in Galilee and a prosperous one in Alexandria (Egypt) and had places for welcoming travelers and the sick. 

John the Baptist, who never left the region of Galilee, baptized with water as of the Essenes traditions and baptized Jesus.

Note 14:  Israel bombed Qana twice: Once on April 18, 1996 on a UN refugee compound and a second time in July 2006.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party's photo.
Syrian Social Nationalist Party's photo.

‫#‏قانا‬ | 18 نيسان 1996


adonis49

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