Friday, October 28, 2016

Mosul, Raqqah, Allepo

Memorize the above names! World War3  might emerge from the area that leads to, fro, and around these places. 

Mosul is a city in northern Iraq;  it's located on the banks of the Tigris river. It's rich in historical buildings. It has a university (closed now) and a medical college.The population is diverse ethnically and religiously, with the majority being Arabs, and the dominant religion - suuni Islam.

Raqqah is a city in Syria; it is situated on the northeast bank of the Euphrates river not far from the largest syrian dam Al Tabqa which has enabled electricity and irrigation to rural parts of Syria. The city has many archeological remains and a museum.
Its main agricultural product is cotton.

Both places were conqured by Daesh (ISIS) in 2014 ; at present. there's a military offensive going on against the ISIS people.  The involved parties are: Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, USA ( in coalition with its western allies), and Russia.

It seems that Daesh with all the atrocities done by it, is only a secondary target, the main target being Syria's president, Assad. The americans want him out (as part of their "arab spring" goals), the russians want him in. Putin acts on Syria's soil upon invitation from Assad. The other forces that go after Daesh into syrian territory are sort of invasive, and this fact also adds fuel to the fire.

Aleppo (Halab in arabic) once Syria's largest city, is close to the turkish border. It has always had a strategic position as a trading center between central Asia and  middle-eastern Asia. It's currently divided between the West part (held by the syrian government) and the East part (held by the rebels who are backed by the USA and its allies in the region - Turkey and Jordan) ;  fight between the two sides has been going on  there for several years. 

I don't think Putin is interested in  a world war now as his country is in a bad economic situation, and wars cost lots and lots of money. But who knows, the sanctions imposed on Russia by the americans and their interference in Ukraine matters, have greatly offended and affected his ego and he might take the wrong decisions.

Anyway the world is quite the orphan now. May God help us!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes....

"Moreshet Avot" (our Fathers' Heritage) synagogue

inside the synagogue

We've just celebrated  The High Holidays: Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) . 

I have several prayer books that belonged to my late parents. A few years ago I tried to donate the books to the synagogue in our town. My parents were faithful members of that institution ; their names were immortalized on the Remembrance Wall in the building's entrance.

The guy there was reluctant about the donation. A kid about 10-12 years old who was with him (probably his son ) said to me:
'Lady, keep these books; they'll protect you, they'll keep you and your house safe and well'.
I stood speechless. Why didn't I think about that? Such wise words coming from a young boy!

During the Holidays I read at home, out of what used to be my mother's book, and feel good, even proud about that.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Leper Colony of Spinalonga

So close to the shore and civilization, and yet so far from it! A rocky, desolate, uninhabited islet surrounded by beautiful, clear, blue waters . Upon it, a strategic, circular venetian  sea fortress and remains of Europe's last leper colony (1903-1957ׁׁ).

Spinalonga, now tourist attraction

To get there I took the bus from Heraklion  to the town of Agios Nikolaos (over an hour drive, nice scenery though), and then another bus to Elounda village(30-40 minutes) where boats were waiting to take visitors to notorious Spinalonga. The sailing takes 25 minutes from Elounda, and only ten minutes from nearby Plaka village. 

sailing from Elounda to Spinalonga

arriving at the pier

A sense of great sadness fell upon me as I walked on the islet. 

There were two gates to the place and several lookouts. One of the gates -  a small dark tunnel was used for bringing in the lepers deported  from Crete and from other parts of Greece.
The lepers were unaware of what was going to happen to them; they were tricked into entering the tunnel. Once inside they were captured and isolated forever.

the tunnel of  'no return' 

venetian lookout; there are several of them

The fortress is not easily accessible; big rocks, hard climbing, 

venetian fortress; rough terrain

so I focused on the colony buildings (partly restored, mostly ruins) : houses, two churches, hospital, shops/workshops, cemetery.

In spite of it all - the ilness, the difficulties, and the stigma - there was life going on there. The leprosy patients got a small allowance from the government, accomodation, medical attention, food, water, and other supplies. People fell in love, married and had children. They organized their houses  and engaged in small cultivation of the land. Some of them had money sent by their family and lived a somewhat better life than the others. 

archway access
 to little dock where food and supplies were brought in

St. Pantelimon church
(the priest, healthy man,volunteered to live with the lepers)

St. George church- little cross on the roof,  bell on the wall


The gap between the poor and those with some money, stands out at the small cemetery where there's a cruel hierarchy.There are three kinds of graves:  a mass grave for the very poor, graves covered with tiles, and separate graves for those with money. 

graves covered with tiles

graves for people with money

one single headstone, dated 2013

Spinalonga is  a must see. It's moving and interesting, and a visit there is a way to pay tribute to those who suffered and struggled to survive. It is called by some  "a monument to human pain" .