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Like the great cities of Damascus and Aleppo, The Other Side of the Mirror is a thing of layered beauty and a source of endless surprise and stimulation. She found, instead, a welcoming and captivating country where she and her family were treated with courtesy and gentleness. She soon returned for a more leisurely trip through Syria's rich historical and archaeological treasures: With her keen and appreciative eye and ear Allen introduces us to Syria's people, culture, and history.

Published in spring of at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, the book has taken on a new resonance. Her most recent book is Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Read more Read less. Paul Dry Books April 5, Language: Don't have a Kindle? Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review.

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. This is a travel memoir, in the tradition of countless other travel memoirs. I was last in Syria as a child in the s, when my family lived in Lebanon.

Or rather, I was curious to know what Syria was like before the Civil War that began in , about the time this book was published. Brooke Allen made two trips to Syria in , one in the spring with her husband and teenaged daughters and one in the fall with a female friend, who had a particular interest in St. Simeon Stylites, an ascetic monk from 5th century Aleppo. There is quite a lot of it. Allen offers historical background, literary references, sometimes the accounts of travelers from other eras for comparison, and her own experiences and observations about the places she visits, people she meets, and culture that surrounds her as she visits markets, museums, hotels, ruins, churches, mosques, and restaurants.

The book is organized loosely by topic: Her two trips are presented more or less as one, not sequentially. Damascus and Aleppo have been inhabited for 8 millennia, after all, and Syria is a direct heir to Greco-Roman culture. Allen begins with the story of the Baron Hotel, in which she stayed, nice enough but past its heyday.

She touches on the history of the first four Caliphs and the balance of the qualities of invincibility and humility that Muslim cultures still expect in their leaders. In some instances, we see the seeds of discontent that turned to protest that opened the door to violence in the many over-educated but unemployed men forced to scrape together a living any way they can. They are the causalities of the rapid adoption of neo-liberal economic policies under Pres.

Bashar al-Assad, which eroded social safety nets, sanctions against Syria since it refused to support the invasion of Iraq in , and 1. A sad predicament for a country with so much potential. In , I saw beautiful land filled with a generous, industrious people. One could easily trace the history of numerous people of antiquity through its treasure trove of archaeological sites.

At the time, I felt many of its treasures had been looted. Seeing the destruction and chaos currently underway, It is comforting to know that many of those splendid artifacts are safely on display in museums and art galleries in other countries.

I'm really glad I read this book. I ordered it when I woke up to the fact that I had no knowledge at all about Syria except the current news about its role vis-a-vis Lebanon and Israel, and then the latest about the "Arab Spring. I felt like U. It gave me a sense of who the national leaders are right now and what a peculiar position they hold.

It also enabled me to get beyond simplistic ideas of what they and Syria have now and what they want. In some places where the archeology got a bit too detailed for me, I skimmed, but in most chapters I read straight through. The author has a nice, humorous style and seems to have worked hard to find out objectively all she could.

Her experiences there were basically very positive and stimulating, and she felt that Syrians generally treat western travelers very respectfully and helpfully. There are lots of photos. How ironic that I would run across this book portraying a secular country welcoming American travelers with typical Muslim hospitality when daily TV images are showing a country being torn apart by Civil War.

As the title indicates, Allen's goal is to go beyond US media images which fail to provide a window looking out on the world but rather a mirror that reflects our own fears and obsessions. In this, she succeeds. She is bright, well read and well traveled, as well as an observant traveler eager to meet local citizens, enjoy their foods, and explore their history and culture.

She first traveled to Syria in the spring of with her family and was so impressed that she went back with two friends for a much longer visit in the fall. Although Allen is an excellent writer and includes numerous personal photographs, the descriptions of archaeological ruins which abound in Syria become a bit much for the average reader. One of the book's strengths is the selected bibliography which would be a great benefit to US citizens whether they intend to visit Syria or not.

The book however lacks any maps which would greatly help to orient readers. Allen seems overly impressed with the secular goals of Syria's government and surprisingly unaware of deep ethnic and religious divisions and resentments that will explode in violence by the time her book is published. Despite this, her book is an excellent guide to understanding Syrian -- and broader Middle Eastern -- history and culture. See all 4 reviews.

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The Survey of Western Palestine

The grateful citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity. Ignatius of Loyola Basque: Ignacio de Loyola — July 31, was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, hermit, priest since and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus the Jesuits and was its first Superior General.

St Ignatius was an incredibly brilliant Knight who fought in many battles without any injuries, until one fateful day. On May 20, , a cannonball wounded one of his legs and broke the other. Unperturbed, he got up and hobbled back to the castle. He needed surgery which was undertaken without anesthesia — a treatment that most modern folk would balk at. Part of his leg bone had to be cut off, and the operation was generally a disaster.

But, despite the fact that he ended up with one leg shorter than the other which led the doctors to put weights on his leg to stretch it back out , he survived and went on to found one of the most famous religious orders in the world inspired by the religious texts he read while recovering from the cannonball.

Saint Simeon Stylites lived for 37 years standing on top of a small platform on a tall pillar. That is sufficient to label him badass. Before this he spent 40 days closed in a tiny hut without any food or water. When he walked out it was hailed as a miracle.

Pilgrims flocked to see St Simeon and they erected taller pillars for him to stand on — in the end his pillar was 15 meters high. He refused to let any women come near the pillar including his mother and he would let people climb a ladder to talk to him and ask for advice. St Simeon truly cemented his name in the annals of badass history when he got an ulcer on his thigh which festered and ultimately led to his death — standing up.

In one battle, Saint Joan was hit in the neck by an arrow. In another battle, whilst scaling a wall to attack the English, she was hit in the head with a canon ball — as is to be expected of a warrior saint, she shook her head and kept climbing. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court and burned at the stake when she was nineteen years old.

It took years before she was officially canonized. Which saint had hundreds of concubines, multiple wives from around the world, so many children that everyone lost count, and an army of pagans? St Vladimir of Kiev did! Vladimir was the grand prince of Kiev, who converted to Christianity in , but before his conversion he was a pretty mean not to mention profligate guy. From the start of his reign in , he conquered lands, slaughtered people, had children and generally partied hard.

On a few occasions he, being a good Pagan, took part in human sacrifices:. A lot was cast and it fell on a youth, Ioann by name, the son of a Christian, Fyodor.

His father stood firmly against his son being sacrificed to the idols. More than that, he tried to show the pagans the futility of their faith: They have created nothing, for they have been created themselves; never will I give my son to the devils! Interestingly, it was this speech which caused Vladimir to ponder over the next few years as to whether he ought to convert to Christianity, which he ultimately did. He ruled so kindly after his conversion that he became known as Vladimir the Great — a far cry from his previous life.

St Moses the Black was a slave of a government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of bandits who roamed the Nile Valley, spreading terror and violence.

He was a large, imposing figure. On one occasion a man caught him in a theft, which annoyed St Moses immensely. The next day he swam across the Nile a not insignificant act with a knife in his mouth — his intention was the kill the guy. St Moses, instead, killed four of his sheep before sticking the knife back in his mouth and swimming back.

Shortly after that the law started to catch up with him so he hid in a monastery. The influence of the monks was so great that he converted and became a monk. Some years later a group of thieves wanted to rob the monastery where St Moses was living. He caught them off guard and single handedly beat them all to a pulp. The head of the monastery said to forgive them and send them away, which surprised the robbers so much that they all apologized, converted and became monks too!

He eventually died at the hands of a group of warriors who attacked the monastery when he was 75 years old — but not before he managed to help 70 of the monks escape. St Moses chose to stay behind with a few other monks to fight off the warriors. St Longinus was a soldier in the Roman army, from Caesarea. He spent his life earning his pension by fighting with his fellow soldiers throughout the Roman lands, and eventually ended up in Jerusalem helping out with various tasks he was capable of he was nearly blind.

One of the tasks was to be life changing. St Longinus was instructed to assist at the crucifixion of Jesus. Being a good Roman soldier he took his work seriously and, ensuring that he get a promotion for doing a good job, stabbed Jesus in the side while he was on the cross. In other words, Longinus stabbed God. It takes a true badass to have the guts to do something like that. He immediately left the army, converted and became a monk.

The Jewish ceremony of circumcision on the eighth day after birth represents placing the sign of the Covenant upon each male child who becomes part of the nation Genesis At both John's and Jesus' circumcisions, naming is mentioned.

Circumcision may have been performed by the village rabbi. Edersheim notes that a benediction would have been said before the circumcision and the ceremony closed with a prayer over a cup of wine. His name "Jesus" Hebrew Yeshua means, as mentioned before, "salvation. The text refers to Mary's purification from childbirth in verses 22 and 24 skipping for the moment the parenthetical verse 23 which refers to Jesus presentation.

After childbirth, mothers were considered ceremonially unclean for a period of time. The sacrifice for her cleansing was to be offered on the fortieth day at the Nicanor Gate on the east of the Court of Women. Because of their poverty, Mary brings a pair young pigeons or doves as her sacrifice -- that was all the family could afford.

To understand this ceremony we need a little background. The early Hebrews believed that the firstborn male of humans and animals belonged to God Exodus They were "consecrated" or holy" to God.

But in the Old Testament, Yahweh is very clear that the child sacrifice practiced by the surrounding pagan religions is abhorrent to him Leviticus In the Exodus, the firstborn sons of Egypt are killed due to Pharoah's stubborn refusal to let the Israelites go, but the firstborn of the people of Israel are "passed over" because of the Passover sacrifice made by each family.

For the firstborn of non-Levites a redemption price was five shekels was paid Numbers 3: The redemption price was a way of supporting the priesthood in their priestly service to God. But the presence of Jesus in the Temple on this occasion is curious, since the presentation and redemption could be made to any priest -- and not just in Jerusalem.

Nor is the redemption money mentioned in this account. Perhaps, instead of being redeemed, Jesus is presented in the Temple for God's service, in the same way that Samuel was presented before the Lord in his mother Hannah's words, "So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord" 1 Samuel 1: Next, the story moves to Simeon and Anna who just "happen" to be in the temple at this time.

Both of them are righteous, God-fearing people whom God has sent as witnesses. Simeon is a Hebrew name, for which the similar-sounding genuine Greek name Simon is sometimes substituted. We learn several things about Simeon:. But what is the "consolation of Israel"?

The Holy Spirit has made Simeon a promise. Luke employs the word "revealed," the Greek verb chrematizo , "impart a divine message, make known a divine injunction or warning. And today is the day.

When directed toward God we translate it "to say something commendatory, speak well of, praise, extol. Simeon's prophetic hymn is called the Nunc Dimittis , after the first two words of the prophecy in Latin. The Greek noun is despostes from which we get our English word "despot" , "one who has legal control and authority over persons, such as subjects or slaves, lord, master.

In the prophetic praise that follows, the child Jesus is equated with "your salvation" in verse It is not accidental that Jesus' name, in Hebrew Yeshua a form of the name "Joshua" , means literally, "salvation. It is remarkable that Simeon sees Jesus' salvation as extending to all people -- Gentiles and Jews alike.

This is the same message the angel spoke to the shepherds on Christmas night: The concept of the Messiah and Israel being "a light for the Gentiles" was first developed by the Prophet Isaiah Isaiah 9: Notice how Joseph is referred to as the child's father in 2: This is not intended to refute the virgin birth related chapter 1, but reflects the way Joseph would have been understood by society in relation to Jesus.

Simeon now blesses the Holy Family. In verse 34 we see the Greek verb eulogeo that appeared in verse 28 as "to praise, extol. Simeon recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, but so does an year-old woman, a pious fixture in the Woman's Court of the Temple. Can't you see her? An old lady, a widow for many, many years, with nothing to do but to worship. And so she does. She practically lives in the Women's Court of the Temple, day and night.

And she is a prophetess, a female prophet. We don't hear the words of her prophecy, but it seems, like Simeon's, to consist of 1 inspired thanksgiving and 2 speaking about the child to other believing people who are present. Both of the verbs here employ the Greek imperfect tense, indicating continued action in the past -- that is, she kept on thanking God and telling people. The word translated "gave thanks" is anthomologeomai , which indicates to publicly express praise or thanks.

Notice that she doesn't speak about Jesus to everyone, but particularly to those in the Temple whom she knew also looked forward to Greek prosdechomai the redemption of Jerusalem. The word "redemption" Greek lutrosis seems a curious one in this context. The Greek word is often used in a commercial sense as "redemption of something for a price.

He was crowned King at only 12 years old, following the death of his father, On May 20, , a cannonball wounded one of his legs and broke the other. St Simeon truly cemented his name in the annals of badass history . badassness of St Quiteria, but the downright weird circumstances of her life. In verses of chapter two Luke has recorded the birth of our Lord . expression which summarizes the faith of the Old Testament saint in the . She was a very aged woman, at least 84 years old, depending on The details of Anna's life are not given to satisfy our curiosity, but as clues to her character. When Hoyt Fields first visited Hearst Castle, the lavish San Simeon estate That architect is Julia Morgan, California's first licensed female architect. Over the course of her year career, Morgan designed more than More Old World influences are evident inside, from the third-century Sarah%20Linn