Archive for June 2005

Assyrian Food Need to Undergo a Major Diet

Assyrian food, oh how lovely and delicious. Oh and very oily too! This is the sad fact about some major Assyrian foods; tastes great, but is not healthy enough. And for decades now, no efforts have been made to change this and make it more modern, and to go with the latest trends of weight loss, Atkins Diet, Low_Carb etc. As a concerned Assyrian., I think it is time we launched a total new revamp of our food menu and its composition, or risk losing a lot of our people to health related diseases, especially heart centered ones.

So how fatty and unhealthy is Assyrian food, compared to other foods from other cultures? While other cultures foods are not as healthy either, Assyrian foods ranks top in many categories. For example, Pacha ( a very popular Assyrian food) has so much fat to the point where a lot of Assyrian families do it only twice per year (Christmas and Easter) Rise make up a big part of Pacha, much like most of the other Assyrian foods, including Dolma, Riza w Shorba, Sejoqe, Kefte and much more. Rise, as we know it, is not too healthy, especially when white instead of brown rise is used. Assyrians seem to forget and sometimes ignore this basic nutrition rule, and still use white rise excessively. Worse yet, we tend to serve our dinner sometimes past 9 or 10 p.m, and with rise, white bread and other unhealthy items. All of which contribute to not-so-great-looking bodies, and an increased risk of heart diseases.

So as we see, it is not only our food, but our eating habits as well. We usually take our food for granted, and forget about its investment for our bodies, its goods and harms etc. For generations, aided by the fact that we come from the Middle East, Assyrians have paid little attention to healthy choices in their eating. For example, Qalya is one very popular food for Assyrians. This extremely delicious food, which looks like stake, is almost half-fat, while the other half is meat; lamb meat. Although, Qalya has not been that popular on the Assyrian menu lately, especially after migrating to the West, it still remains a hot food item back home in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq. But imagine eating this, on a full plate of rise, with bread on the side after 10, or even 11 p.m! This is not just a recipe for disaster, but something that was very common back then, and probably till now. Not surprising that a lot of our people die to heart attacks; caused by the fat from these foods which clogs our arteries, eventually causing our hearts to just stop and give up!

Having said all this, we should also look at the positive side; Assyrians still have their own healthy choices; some being very popular food dishes for Assyrians. Vegetables, of course, make up a big portion of these healthy foods, as opposed to fat stuff. But of course, more should be done than just relying on healthy food choices. What is required is a new, official or unofficial, campaign to raise awareness about our eating habits and choices. Funny thing is, unhealthy food choices not only effect our health, but our looks too. And that is having some bad effects on our society at times. How many times have we seen newly wed Assyrian wives and husbands, expressing displeasure with their spouse’s look and increasing weight, especially after marriage? Quiet a lot! In fact, lately, there has been many divorce cases caused by someone’s dissatisfaction with their partner’s worsening body image, including a big belly, big hips, or even the commonly cited, big….. It is time Assyrians took care of their bodies, and the time is now. It starts with the food we eat!

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Assyrians Need their Own Central Library, or Risk Losing their History

As an Assyrian, if I want to pray, I go my Assyrian church. As an Assyrian, if I want to socialize, I go to an Assyrian party or picnic. As an Assyrian, if I want to learn about my nation’s history, learn the Assyrian language, and just educate myself in Assyrianism, I go to….? Yes indeed there is a blank to fill, and that blank is the need for a central national Assyrian library. Yes, Assyrians do lack a lot of things, but a central library is one of the most important things. A central library would serve to preserve our history, educate our current generation, and be there for our many generations to come. Without something as important as this, we risk losing our history, language and culture.

To preserve our History:

Can a building, otherwise referred to as a ‘library’ save an entire history of an ancient nation like the Assyrians? Yes. A central library would enable us to have one central and historical reference point. A point where the history of our nation, since its inception thousands of years ago, and until this day, would be preserved. We need to take care of our own history and not let someone else write it for us. One way of making sure this happens, is by preserving your history and having it authenticated and verified for centuries and centuries to come.

Although thousands of books still exist today that deal with the analytical and chronological detailing of our history, just as many have been lost. Remember, our nation has gone through a lot, so it is not easy to keep books, and historical documents from being lost. But again, a central library would serve to keep all these volumes in one place, and refer back to it at anytime, when the need arises. In other words, the library would act as an evidence for our long and rich history.

To keep our Present:

This central library would also help us in the present, specifically the most recent generation of Assyrians. That is, this library could store a massive amount of books and volumes related to various Assyrian subjects including our language, our church and its history, our civilization and much more. And like mentioned above, the library should try and have every Assyrian book out there, new and old, whether in Aramaic or neo-Syriac.

Again, the idea of centralizing all of our Assyrian publications and volumes in one place, will greatly simplify our efforts to preserve our culture, language and history. Researchers for example, including non-Assyrian, could consult this national library when doing a research on Assyrians or Assyriology. Much like the various Egyptian and Greek libraries, dealing specifically with these two respective civilizations’ knowledge and information.

To guarantee our future:

Of course, this library will be of great use for future generations. In fact, the farther removed from our generation, the more useful; as it will have encompassed the works of the past, and the present in which we live in now. That way, our future Assyrians will arm themselves with this knowledge, and get educated enough to face any threats aimed towards our cultural existence. Moreover, if we do build this library now, the future generation will only have to occupy itself with educating itself; little time in having to organize their history and knowledge as relating to the Assyrian civilization. And with the rapid development of new internet-related technologies, this library may just be a click away from anybody at anytime.

Project Limitations:

Now some questions arise. First, how accessible will this library be to Assyrians, or all Assyrians? Related to that, where will it built or located. For example, if it is located in the Middle East, how will people in Europe, North America and the Australias access it? Better yet, who will decide where it should be built? These are questions, which I myself can offer little help in answering. However, the issue of accessibility shouldn’t be that huge, although it may seem like it, at first. With the help of the internet, the entire library could be digitized and put online for free or for a small fee, to anyone willing to research Assyrian history. So an Assyrian priest or nun living in Iran, would have no problem accessing rare religious texts written by Assyrian fathers centuries ago. In other words, the internet will help make this library accessible to just about anyone out there. Of course, the issue still remains, when people don’t have access to a hard copy. The solution to this is to-in the future when more resources are available-is to build smaller, yet just as capable Assyrian libraries in different parts of the world. More like a public franchise, although with no profits involved.

Conclusion and Remarks!

Not convinced yet that a library is essential to our very survival? I can give you more than one example of more than one civilization which are now extinct due to their people not being able to transform their culture, knowledge, rituals and teachings from one generation to another. In fact, the lack of any written form of language made it worse for some primitive cultures. For us Assyrians, we are lucky, because we do have our own spoken and written language. As well, we are lucky to have lived till this day of the internet and the world wide web, which will only boost our efforts of maintaining our culture and preserving it. Hey, did you know Assyrians were the first people to have a library? Having said that, how can you, as an Assyrian, let to be labeled “The people who invented the first library, don’t even have one now”!

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Suddenly, More Assyrians Going East than Assyrians Going West!

It is amazing how some things change, all of a sudden. Just a few years ago, the talk was: “even the Assyrians who haven’t left yet, will soon be leaving the homeland, and migrate to the West!” And all indications were pointing to that sad direction of reality. But things have suddenly changed in the last few months. There is now more talk of Assyrians actually going back. Although those Assyrians are not necessarily going back to stay permanently, their mission is still a noble one; one that will be looked at decades from now and be appreciated a lot.

So why is it such a big deal if Assyrians go back if they are not going to stay there permanently? Well, it is important to note, that primary reason for their going back is to be part of a big “rebuilding and reconstruction effort” that has been going on for years. And this unofficial (some official and similar campaigns have been going on for years, but that is not the subject of this article) campaign has only been fueled even more after the removal of Saddam. The reconstruction process is happening all over the villages in Northern Iraq from Barwar to Sapna, and all that surrounds these regions. For every village, you will see on average, some 3-5 new houses being built. In addition, water purification systems, electricity, churches and other public utilities are all being added as well.

This reconstruction and building process is opening new frontiers for Assyrians; especially those already living in the region. To prevent Kurds from taking over Assyrian villages in the region, locals are being brought in to inhabit these newly constructed village units. Slowly, but steadily, this is creating whole new regions composed primarily of Assyrian populations. And should this trend continue at this pace, make no mistake about it, the whole region will, in a few years from now, be back to a lot similar to what it used to be before.

Of course the problem still remains, when people only go there to rebuild, and not to stay. Although, some do stay, or at least spend part of the year there, and the other part in their original country of residence. It would have been much better if people went there and stayed, at least partially. That is, to spend part of the year in there, taking care of the house, the land, the farm etc. For an Assyrian visiting from North America for example, winters are usually long and cold, so it is a good idea to spend the winter and part of fall in their Assyrian village, while spring and summer could be spent in their North American home of residence.

Another solution is for Assyrians to open their own businesses in the region, thus have more incentive to stay longer. These businesses wouldn’t only benefit the visiting Assyrian, but also the local Assyrians, who could be employed and also have them manage the business when the owner is away. It wouldn’t be a bad idea, for example, if the province of Barwar or Sapna, had their own small local Assyrian economies. In the future, these two small economies would combine, possibly with other regional economies to form a strong Assyrian economy in Bet-Nahrain; something that would benefit thousands of Assyrians who inhabit that region.

There is a lot of reasons for optimism, although that optimism should be perceived with some caution. The reconstruction and building efforts are there, but the willingness to go the further mile-going back and living in the region permanently-is still not there. Nevertheless, should this radical change continue for years to come, some good things will be coming for Assyrians and Assyria.

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