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Excerpt from ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?; A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’ 

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***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or images can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

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Granddad Jacob, that’s an amazing spiritual journey….

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Jacob Coory (Fahkrey), my grandfather, as I remember him. (photo: Wendy Coory Gretton)

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My extensive research into the murky past, which was partly buried in the Aramaic language and ancient names, reveals how much I didn’t know about my paternal grandfather, Jacob Habib El Khouri Eleishah Fahkrey. Nevertheless, my limited personal contact with Jacob left a significant impact. I deeply mourn that he died before I ever had the chance to talk with him about our extremely rich genetic and cultural heritage. If only I’d known as a child that he was such a valuable resource for our Lebanese family history. But then, what child can really comprehend such a thing? That, beyond their narrow sphere of existence, a family history has been woven as intricately as any tapestry, replete with human drama, personal tragedy and war, set in countries at opposite ends of the world. As a child my whole world stretched no further than a few urban blocks in Dunedin – The Catholic orphanage at one end and the Coory family home at the other.

Jacob and my grandmother, Eva, both spoke a Semitic language, an ancient form of Aramaic. Jacob’s forebears most likely descended from an ancient tribe of Israelites originating in the ancient Canaan, now known as Israel and Jordan. From there, some Canaanite clans including, I believe, those of Jacob’s distant ancestors, migrated to the rich and ancient area in the plains of Mesopotamia, close to the life-giving Euphrates River. There is linguistic evidence the Semitic tribes first arrived in Mesopotamia around 4000 BCE. The Aramaeans (speakers of Aramaic)  were a nomadic tribe when they first encountered Mesopotamia. Over the centuries they gradually moved in a westerly direction then south down the Euphrates River, eventually settling in to form kingdoms. The consolidation of the Aramaeans into settled kingdoms allowed the re-establishment of the trade routes through Palestine (Philistine) and Syria, and allowed the temporary Israelite expansion. Some of the Aramaean tribes continued to migrate west across Mesopotamia, their fortunes greatly improved due to the relative stability of the settlements in the area.

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Jacob Fahkrey (Coory) on his arrival in New Zealand c.1898

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Early Coory Clan

L to R: Amelia, Jacob with Phillip on his knee, Michael, Joseph (Anne Frandi-Coory’s father), Elizabeth, and standing at rear is Eva holding Neghia

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The Bible mentions the Aramaeans and links the Israelite Patriarchs with them. The ancient Israelites had to profess their faith by pronouncing ‘my father was a wandering Aramaean’. It was probably during their settlement in Mesopotamia that the clans mixed with the seafaring Phoenicians, recorded there as early as 2300 BCE. The first key port of the Phoenicians was at Sidon in Lebanon. For the remainder of the pre-Christian period, around 300 BCE, Mesopotamia was safely in the hands of the Seleucids (Greeks) while the two-millennia-old Babylonian civilisation was dying. Since the turn of the millennium, both socially and linguistically, Aramaeans had been penetrating Babylonia; their tribal systems overtook the cities, and their language eventually superceded the ancient Akkadian.

Some of the native Syriac dialects, as well as ancient Hebrew, merged with Aramaic, one of the Semitic languages which has been known since almost the beginning of human history. The Semitic languages, which include Hebrew, Arabic, Akkadian, Aramaic and Ethiope, were first glimpsed in ancient royal inscriptions around 900-700 BCE. The Aramaeans introduced their language to Syria when they settled there during the second millennia BCE. The Persians gave Aramaic official status, and throughout the Greek and Roman eras it remained the principal vernacular language. Babylonian and Persian Empires ruled from India to Ethiopia, and Assyrians employed Aramaic as their official language from 700-320 BCE, as did the Mesopotamians. The Aramaic script in turn derived from the Phoenicians, who most likely extracted it from the Canaanites. Writing derived from Phoenician, began to appear in Palestine around the tenth century BCE.

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map Middle East

National Geographic Map of Ancient Middle East

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There is general agreement among scholars that the linear alphabet had its beginnings somewhere in the Levant during the second millennium BCE. The Etruscans were the first among Italic Peoples to adopt the linear alphabet script and it spread rapidly throughout the Italian peninsula. The Phoenicians and the Etruscans had close trading and religious ritual links. These days, Aramaic is only spoken by small Christian communities in and around Lebanon, and in a small Christian village in Syria. The word Aramaic derives from the word Aram, fifth son of Shem, from which the word shemaya (semitic for ‘high up’ or ‘mountain’) is derived. Around 721-500 BCE, the ancient Hebrew language of the people of Palestine was overtaken by Aramaic, and much later the message of Christianity spread throughout Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia via this Semitic vernacular. Aramaic survived the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE and continued to be the predominant language. But Arabic spread and gradually took over as the lingua franca in the Middle East, around the thirteenth century CE. It seems reasonable to assume that, as speakers of this ancient language and in conjunction with their familial names, the Fahkrey forebears were originally members of a Judaic tribe, the Canaanites, who, over the centuries, mixed with other ethnic groups such as Hittites, Phoenicians, Akkadians, Greeks, and Macedonians to name a few. The word Fahkrey probably derives from the Aramaic word fagary, which means ‘the solid one’. There is plenty of evidence to support this, as Jacob and his descendants are of short, stocky build with strong arms and legs.

Many Canaanite menhirs (religious rock emblems) have been found in Lebanon and Syria. It’s interesting to note that at Baalbek, in the mountains of Lebanon, there is evidence of sacred ritual prostitution (male and female); a long-established Phoenician institution, associated with the cult of Astarte, the Goddess, also called Ishtar (Esther). Within the Phoenician realm, the great mother goddess Ishtar/Astarte was venerated in caves and grottos. A number of these sacred caves later evolved into sanctuaries dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Adoration grew into a cult, elevating Mary to the status of ‘Protectress of Lebanon’. My paternal family’s stocky build, soft round features and fairer complexion add a little mystery to their ancestry in a region where many inhabitants have dark features.

We have very little archaeological or written evidence, and so much of this history is conjecture. What we do know is that the Greeks overran and were prominent in the Levant from at least 1200 BCE. The Romans invaded in the first century BCE and Roman rule strengthened after this time. Judea later became a Roman province. And there were other ethnic groups which invaded the area from time to time in between. Ancient Damascus played an important role in the destiny of the Fahkrey tribe. Around the ninth century BCE, Damascus’s political and economic strength enticed both Palestinian Kingdoms , Israel and subsequently Judea, to seek alliance with it. At the time there was a direct and vital communication route between Tyre in Lebanon and Damascus via the Beqa (Bekka) Valley.  In 64 BCE Damascus had become part of the Roman Empire and thrived as a city-state, converting to Christianity very early on in the Christian era. The leaders of the Roman Empire would later see the infrastructure of the Catholic Church as a beneficial conduit of power for their vast empire and name it as their official religion…

During the 630s CE, Jacob’s distant ancestors were on the move again towards Damascus, ahead of the Muslim armies rampaging across the Arabian peninsula. Muslim armies attacked and eventually occupied Damascus in 635 CE, then converted Syria to Islam. Those tribes living in and around Damascus would have been familiar with the safe haven of Bcharre in the hills of Lebanon. Damascus is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world and was once a central sphere of  influence and prosperity. Around the fourteenth century our Fahkrey ancestors moved on from Damascus and up into Lebanon’s protective mountains…

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The Roman Catholic Church aligns itself with the Maronites  (the religion of my grandparents) in the mountains of Lebanon:…

More Here: THE MARONITES IN HISTORY

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More…..Walking Around Lebanon With 2Famous

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Excerpt  from ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?; A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’ 

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***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photograph can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

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[My paternal grandfather] Jacob Habib Eleishah El Khouri Fahkrey tells us in his diary that he was unhappy about going to live in his grandfather’s house when he was seven years old. His grandfather, Eleishah,  had great expectations of him for the future. Eleishah was a very holy and hard-working man who was attached to the [Roman Catholic] Saint Simon Monastery. Even within the peasant classes, selected men could become priests and marry as well. Eleishah’s status afforded Jacob the heredity right to anglicise Fahkrey to Coory (guttural Khouri meaning ‘priest’)

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Anne Frandi-Coory’s paternal Lebanese grandparents, Jacob and Eva Coory (Fahkrey)

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Eleishah’s education of Jacob included teaching him to read and write in four languages and he planned to later school him in the art of translating Assyrian into Arabic. In his first years, Jacob bent to his grandfather’s wishes, working hard at his studies and fully expected to become a priest. The languages he studied were French (his second language) Latin and Greek, and under his grandfather’s dedicated tutelage, Jacob wrote and spoke fluently and eloquently in the ancient Syriac language, Aramaic, Bcharre’s native tongue. This language was, at that time, spoken mostly by Syrian peasants. The religious ideas of the Syrian and Italian peasantry were similar, confirmation of the integration of ideas and beliefs along the charted trade routes between Italy and the Fertile Crescent. Later, once Jacob had emigrated, he made the effort to learn English. The Arab world was a multicultural mix of language and peoples; Jacob’s heritage and talents reflected this. In retrospect, it’s sad to think that Jacob could have achieved so much more for his family and descendents if he had moved out of his cultural and priestly comfort zone.

In any event, Jacob changed his mind about following in The Family tradition of priestly services, but, cautiously at first, made the announcement that he would like to marry. It was not until his marriage to Eva (Khowha) Arida that he told his grandfather he did not wish to follow him into the priesthood, which made his grandfather very angry. Eleishah did not speak to him for sometime afterwards. Jacob’s rebellious change of heart may have had something to do with his frequent sojourns into Beirut with friends, in which he experienced the forbidden fruit of city life away from his grandfather’s strict philosophical and priestly instruction.

Other events transpired to influence Jacob’s fateful decision. When Jacob was twelve years old, his father, Habib, and uncle Tunnous El Khouri, visited Australia and New Zealand. His uncle eventually returned to New Zealand and bought a vineyard there. The family talked often about the exploits of this adventurous uncle and the young fertile country he had travelled to.

…The Fahkrey family in Bcharre must have been heartened then, following their earlier disappointment, by Jacob’s acceptance of their choice of a bride and the wedding was arranged to take place on a Sunday. Within a few months of their betrothal, the young couple had secretly planned to set sail for New Zealand after their wedding. This plan was obviously instigated by Jacob. I don’t believe that Eva fully understood what she was getting herself into, because her early life had been very different to Jacob’s. Eva had spent her early life cooking, cleaning, and praying, and was only 15 years old on her wedding day.

Jacob and Eva’s wedding ceremony was performed by Eleishah Fahkrey, who was still unaware of his grandson’s intentions to abandon his religious training and emigrate. Eleishah spoke after the ceremony, saying how proud he was that he would soon have a priestly grandson. The wedding ceremony lasted fifteen days, truly reminiscent of the pagan love feasts which so scandalised the early Christian Church. There was much celebrating and drinking, and many guests spent the nights sleeping under trees. Soon after the wedding celebrations had ended, Jacob and Eva continued with their plans to migrate to New Zealand to make their fortune, hoping to then return to Lebanon.

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More….Walking Around Lebanon With 2famous

Updated 30 June 2015

Comment  on my post dated 9/12/2011,  from David Anthony in America:

To Anne Frandi-Coory: – What a touching note.   [from post: My Father, Joseph Jacob Habib Eleishah Coory].

Anne blog

Anne Frandi-Coory

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David writes: You mention Aramaic: I have a little story for you…

About 30 years ago, about 1978-1980, my jidoo [grandfather] was visiting my house when a distant cousin from Lebanon visited.  My jidoo’s parents came to America in 1892. He was raised speaking what he and we thought was Arabic. He spoke it fluently- after all, it was what was spoken in his household growing up.

Well, when my cousin, who recently came from Lebanon fleeing the civil war, visited, they (my cousin and my grandfather) both spoke to each other in [what they thought was] Arabic. They couldn’t understand one another. My cousin said my grandfather wasn’t speaking Arabic, but a language much older. He said it was like an Italian listening to Latin.

So I came to find out that my jidoo didn’t really speak Arabic. The language he spoke so fluently was ancient Syriac- as you know, a version of Aramaic. The “Arabic” words I picked up as a youth tended much more towards Aramaic. In fact, many years after my jidoo passed away, a very good friend of mine from Zahle told me that the few Lebanese Aramaic words my dad and I spoke had a strong northern (Ehden) accent. :-)

Just one other note: Anxiety runs rampant in the Lebanese side of the family. For some, the levels of anxiety run so high that it’s disabling. I’m wondering if there’s a similar issue in your family.

Two reasons; 1) Lebanese boys were forced to sit in the back of all classes. Italian and Irish boys sat in front. 2) As my dad had terrible nearsightedness, and he wasn’t allowed to sit in the front of the class because of his skin color, he could never see the blackboard. In order to take any notes, he’d copy notes from the student sitting next to him. When he got caught by a nun, which was often, he’d get sent to the Principal for copying notes. The Principal would tell him to put out his hand, which would then get beaten pretty badly.

Finally,one day, when he was in 8th or 9th grade or so, he came home with such a beaten hand that my sitoo [grandmother] noticed. After she insisted he tell her what happened, my dad then explained what happened. Right away they went and bought him his first pair of glasses. After that, he could see the blackboard better- and his grades went sky high.

But the damage was done. By tenth grade, he left school to work in a factory, partly driven, I’m sure, by the beatings.– David Anthony.

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A very old photo of my grandmother, Eva Coory’s mother and brother, taken in Bcharre, Lebanon.

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Dear David

How wonderful to hear your story. Yes, Aramaic is derived from an ancient form of Syriac and is now spoken only by small pockets of Syrian peasants and by Maronites in Bcharre, Lebanon. It was also the language that Jesus spoke. I did much research into my grandparents’ history and the history of Lebanon in general. My grandfather’s ancestors moved to the hills of Lebanon (Bcharre) around the 14th Century, from Iraq.

It is uncanny how similar are our fathers’ stories. My father, Joseph, was also beaten by the Catholic Brothers at school, and finally one day he ran home and refused to return to school. He was also shortsighted and told me he was often beaten because he couldn’t speak English, only Aramaic!

You may be interested in my book ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ A personal story, but which also delves deeply into the ancient history of my ancestors and the Aramaic language, which was eventually swamped by the advance of Islam and Arabic, which became the lingua franca of the Middle East.  BTW, Zahle is a name that pops up in my grandfather, Jacob Habib Fahkrey’s family tree.

Anxiety runs deep in my family tree as well.  In both the Lebanese and Italian sides of my family, volatile personalities reign.  My children have inherited the tendency to anxiety, although nowhere near as intense as preceding generations. Of course, both Lebanese and Italian peoples express the whole range of emotions vividly, which can sometimes be quite intimidating to others.

I agree with you about the blatant racism that thrived in those times. Once again, both my Lebanese and Italian ancestors experienced this.

I would love to hear more of your story.

Best wishes,
Anne

Read Here:  The Maronites In History 

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My maternal Italian grandmother Maria Cajetan Grego Frandi

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In Memory of all those mothers, children, and grandmothers who followed their men to the other side of their world. To lands not always welcoming…nothing changes

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Exiles

Exiled from home. The far sea rolls

between them and the country of their birth;

the childhood-turning impulse of their souls

EVA Exiles

My paternal grandmother, Eva Arida Fahkrey (Coory) 15yrs old & married, Bcharre, Lebanon

pulls half across the earth. Exiled from home.

No mother to take care that they work too hard,

grieve not too sore;

no older brother nor small sister fair

no father any more.

Exiled from home; from all familiar things;

the low browed roof, the grass surrounded door;

accustomed labours that gave daylight wings;

loved steps on the worn floor.

Exiled from home. Young girls sent forth alone

when most their hearts need close companioning;

no love and hardly friendship may they own,

no voice of welcoming.

Blended with homesick tears the exile stands;

to toil for alien household gods she comes;

a servant and a stranger in our lands,

homeless within our homes.

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– Charlotte Perkins Gilman. (1914)

AUDIO: Exiles 

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See later post: Italian Villa With Virgin

See Immigration & The Promise

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