Poem and Painting Goodbye Bcharré
Copyright To Anne Frandi-Coory All Rights reserved 19 April 2016
Painting 500cm x 410cm Acrylic on canvas
Read more about * Goodbye Bcharré *
Copyright To Anne Frandi-Coory All Rights reserved 19 April 2016
Painting 500cm x 410cm Acrylic on canvas
Read more about * Goodbye Bcharré *
by Matti Moosa
I bought this very expensive book because I have always been interested in the Maronite religion of my Lebanese Grandparents, Jacob and Eva Coory. They were born and raised in the small village of Bcharre where the Maronite religion appears to have gained a strong footing around the 6th Century. There are very few books written about Lebanon’s Maronites but I believe I have found a well written and well researched one in Moosa’s original Syracuse University Press publication The Maronites in History. Various essays on this subject can be found on many websites, but I found them to be emotive and with little basis in fact. Certainly no source documents were quoted, and most were based on hearsay passed down through generations. Still more were so badly written, it was difficult to follow the writer’s line of thought.
Matti Moosa opens the Preface of his book The Maronites in History with a question: Who are the Maronites and what is their importance to the existence of the Lebanese Republic? This is a very good question, because so much folklore has been added to fact that it’s very difficult to know for certain. However, the author has embarked on a marathon investigation after being awarded a scholarship. He has extensively studied source documents housed in the Vatican Library as well as written testimonies from writers who lived in Lebanon from the 5th Century onwards.
The author states: In essence this book is a study and analysis of the origin of the Maronites , indeed of their whole historical heritage, an examination based on ancient and modern sources written in many languages, many of which are still in manuscript form.
Moosa goes on to explain in the preface: This book attempts to place the history of the Maronites in historical perspective. Maronites today suffer from a serious identity problem. They haven’t been able to decide whether or not they are descendants of an ancient people called the Marada (Mardaites) or Arabs or of Syriac-Aramaic stock. Unless the Maronites solve this identity problem their conflicts with other minority religious groups in Lebanon will never be remedied.
Essentially, historical documents show that the Maronites originally professed the faith of Monophysitism, and later through edicts and threats of death or exile by various religious and state rulers, changed their beliefs to Monothelitism, both considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church. Monothelitism though, is close to Catholic doctrine, so it appears the Church in Rome turned a blind eye to this heresy by Maronites for various strategic reasons which Moosa discusses at length in The Maronites. [My emphasis]
There are even disputes among Maronites and scholars over the origin of the name Maronite. The Maronite’s beloved monk St Marun and a later patriarch John Marun, have question marks over their actual existence. There is nothing in available ancient sources to indicate the name and location of the place where the ascetic Marun lived. However, the author concedes, one might be tempted, upon reading Theodoret of Cyrus, to conclude that a certain Marun lived in the vicinity of Cyrus in what was then known as Syria Prima, many miles to the north-east of Antioch. The failure to positively identify this place has caused much speculation by Maronites as to its whereabouts. The Maronite Bishop Pierre Dib states that Marun lived on top of a mountain near Apamea in Syria Secunda, an area far distant from Cyrus. Others claim that Marun lived in a cave near the source of the river Orontes (al-Asi) close to the Hirmil in Lebanon; they cite as evidence the name of the cave known until this day as the cave of Marun. Other Bishops and writers state with the same certainty various other places in which the cave of Marun may have been situated. Maronites and others cannot even agree on where or when a monastery of Marun was built but we may conclude that in Syria toward the end of the 6th or early 7th Century there existed more than one monastery bearing the name of Marun. One of them was located in or near Hama and Shayzar. It gained some notoriety in the early 7th Century when it adopted Monothelitism. The abbot of this monastery was named Yuhanna (John) and he became a Monothelite with many followers in Syria leading to the slow spread of Monothelitism into Lebanon. Those who followed him were called Maronites. Whether this monastery had any connection with the fifth century ascetic Marun is doubtful.
Efforts to date the Monastery of Marun from the 5th Century are sheer speculation. However, we have three documents which refer to a Monastery of Marun in Syria Secunda and all three documents attest that the monastery of Marun related to the doctrine of Monothelitism.
Commemorated on July 31st each year by the Maronite Church is the mythical massacre of 350 monks, ‘martyrs and disciples’ of the ascetic Marun. They were believed to have been slaughtered but this atrocity lacks strong historical substantiation. In fact there is no evidence that these were monks from the monastery of Marun. Indeed, there is no mention of this in any pope’s correspondence of the times, nor is it mentioned in any Vatican or Church official documents.
There is no evidence that the Maronite Church ever commemorated these ‘martyrs’ before the year 1744. Even the Maronite Council assembled in Lebanon in 1736, which among other matters instituted the festivals and commemoration days for Maronite saints, did not list a commemoration day for these ‘martyrs’.
It is the author’s judgment following extensive research that the Maronites were and are closely linked to Syrian Orthodoxy. Probably for largely political reasons and the Roman Catholic Church’s need to gain a foothold in the Middle East, it overlooked the Maronite’s heretical interpretation of the Council of Chalcedon’s strict canons. [My emphasis]
In the Vatican’s push to gain a foothold in the Middle East, it allowed the Maronites to maintain their traditional patriarchs as head of their Church in Lebanon as they had done since the middle of the 8th Century. But in reality Rome considered them less than a Catholic bishop in status. It appears that only in the 8th Century did ancient church writers refer to the Maronites as a distinct Christian sect. [My emphasis]
Fortified for many generations in their mountain of Lebanon, the Maronites could claim more independence in their ecclesiastical affairs and therefore were and still are in a much more favourable position to revive their Syriac tradition and language. But instead of encouraging the Maronites to retain and cherish their Syriac heritage and revive the Syriac language in order to become once more the lingua franca of the Maronite people the Latin missionaries (sent by Rome) discouraged the use of this language and denigrated the Syriac heritage and added more woe to the state of the already Arabised Maronites by Latinisng their Church and eventually their prayer books. The Maronites thus almost completely lost their Syriac identity. Since the 16th Century instead of taking pride in their Syriac legacy, the Maronites,in their desperation to find a legitimate origin of their Church and people have claimed that they were the descendants of Marada (Mardaites) which is historically groundless.
Like the Nestorians the Rum (Byzantine) Orthodox, and the Syrian Orthodox People, the Maronites are of Syriac-Aramaic origin The Lebanese Council of 1736 emphasised the use of the Syriac language first and Arabic second in the Maronite Church services. But this emphasis was not intended nor did it contribute to the revival of the Syriac language as the national symbol of the Church. Perhaps if the Lebanese Council’s recommendations had been followed, Lebanon may not be suffering the loss of identity it’s suffering from today. The least one can say for certainty is that the names of the villages and towns of Lebanon, especially Bcharre and three neighbouring villages, used the Syriac-Aramaic language as their lingua franca.
At the end of the 16th Century Maronite Patriarchs have often interfered in Lebanon’s political affairs in the belief that they were more than just the head of their Church. This has often exacerbated sectarian rivalries.
Many Maronites maintain vigorously that they have always adhered to the faith of Chalcedon and that their Church has never deviated therefrom; they were always united with the Church of Rome.
Moosa’s research uncovers documents that clearly refute this argument. It indicates that until the 16th century the Maronites did not separate clearly and decisively from the mother Syrian Orthodox church in its beliefs, rituals and traditions. In fact, according to the calendar of festivals of the Maronite Church, whether in manuscript form or published in Rome since the 16th Century, it shares certain commemorative dates with the Syrian Orthodox Church.
Monophysitism: One incarnate nature of the divine logos – a doctrine which the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch has maintained to the present day and which ancient Maronite Syriac-Aramaic ritual and prayer books prove was also the doctrine held by the early Maronites.
Monthelitism: The Incarnation of two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, were united in one will and one energy – Until the late 16th Century Maronite ritual books contained this doctrine, at which time they were ‘purged’ by missionaries from the Roman Catholic Church to restore the Maronites to its fold.
Catholicism (Chalcedonian): The Incarnation of the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, were united in one person yet remained distinct after the union
Orthodox liturgies, prayer books and prayers themselves also caused friction between the Church of Rome and the Syrian Orthodox Church, which Moosa writes about in detail.
Moosa sums up:
Several conclusions may be deduced from the foregoing opinions and speculations. The evidence addressed by Maronites and those who support their claims that there existed in the 5th Century in Syria Secunda a Monastery of Marun whose monks were Chalcedonians [followers of Catholicism] is untenable. Maronites (and others) cannot even agree who built the monastery of Marun or its exact location. Most of the evidence they do produce has no historical foundation. Historical fact does indicate , however, that there were several monasteries named Marun in Syria, but not that they were named after the particular ascetic Marun. More important, available evidence does not support that there was a Maronite community in Syria before the 7th or even 8th Century. While historical evidence does support the thesis that the pious anchorite named Marun lived, died, and was buried in the district of Cyrus in northern Syria, there is nothing to indicate that this Marun ever founded a religious community or inspired the name Maronite. Further, there is no evidence that he or his followers ever built a monastery in his name. Those Maronites who describe their ascetic Marun as ‘the Father of the Maronite Nation’ do so from the totally sentimental predisposition rather than assert it as a claim derived from objective fact.
Doctrines found in ancient books reveal that Maronites were of the Syrian Orthodox faith who believed in the Monophysite doctrine before they became a distinct community:
From the time of the Council of the Chalcedon in 451 to the first half of the 7th Century the first Maronites –the monks of the Monastery of Marun – became Monothelites by imposition of Emperor Heraclius. The statement is clear and positive on the point that these Maronite monks had been Monophysites (Syrian Orthodox), and though the heated controversy over the mode of the union of the two natures of Christ was finally thought to have been resolved by the Council of Chalcedon, the monks of the Monastery of Marun were recalcitrant in accepting the Council’s transactions. This recalcitrance was exhibited in anger and defiance on the part of these Monophysite monks who, like the majority of the Church in Syria, renounced the Council of Chalcedon and the definition of the faith. They remained Monophysites until the beginning of the 7th Century when they became Monothelites under the Chalcedonian formula of faith imposed on them by Emperor Heraclius in the interests of religious harmony. Though appearing to accept this faith through coercion the monks remained faithful to their Monophysite faith, which they kept intact in their ritual books. Subsequently the new creed of Monothelitism did not separate them drastically from the bulk of the Syrian Orthodox Monophysites. The point of separation was their apparent acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon under imposition of imperial power. It is through this acceptance of Chalcedon and of Monothelitism as a doctrine that they became a distinct religious group in the middle of the 8th Century and not before.
This is a mammoth scholarly work by Matti Moosa with full bibliography and notes.
Arab, Byzantine, Ottoman and French states all played their part in the formation and divisions of Lebanon as we know it today. You will have to read this impressive work to fully comprehend 21st Century Lebanon. I can assure you, it is riveting reading. Moosa separates Maronite historical fact from fiction in a format and style that is very easy to read and follow, even allowing for the few minor grammatical and typographical errors.
© To Anne Frandi-Coory All Rights Reserved 24 April 2015
by Geoffrey Hindley
Were historical religious wars in reality an extension and prolongation of tribal hatreds? Eventually the rise of the two major religions of Islam and Christianity would convert millions into faithful followers. Each side would massacre hundreds of thousands of ‘infidels’ in the name of their respective one true god.
Anyone who has any doubts whatsoever that either Islam or Christianity was founded on peace and respect for human life, should read this book. Arabs initiated the Jihad wars of the 7th and 8th Centuries which conquered the Christian lands from Syria to Egypt, and the North African coast from the Christian Roman Empire and the Christian Kingdoms of Spain, also the aggressive conquest of the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire. In the Middle Ages, the Christians initiated four barbaric crusades to fight not only Islam’s followers but also other Christian groups committing heresy. Let’s not forget that both Christians and Muslims massacred their own followers for what seems to me, the most trivial of doctrinal differences.
Once Christianity became the state religion of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, the Roman Catholic religion and politics were inextricably intertwined. Pagans were massacred mercilessly if they didn’t convert to Christianity. It was no different for those who followed Allah. It wasn’t until the Arabs united under their own prophet in the 7th Century, did they have the power to take on the Christian infidels. Before the Arabs rampaged out of the deserts of Arabia, they had languished as disregarded and disunited pagan Arab tribes. In the words of an Arab envoy to the Shah of Persia: “Once the Arabs were a wretched race, whom you could tread underfoot at will….Now for our glory, Allah has raised up a prophet among us.”
Hindley’s book is well written, full of historical fact, and takes readers to wherever Christianity spread its tentacles: Russia, Europe, Middle East, Turkey, Arabia, and North Africa. Kings, (particularly French) Bishops and Popes were on the forefront of the fight against infidels, and the terrible crime of heresy. During the four crusades and the Inquisition, torture was widespread and horrific. For instance, alarm bells were ringing in Rome that large numbers of heretic communities existed in the south of France, Provence and Aquitaine. In the town of Béziers alone in 1209 the entire population of 15,000 people were massacred in what was actually a frenzy of ethnic cleansing; probably no more than 700 were active Cathars.
The Maronites of Lebanon are another yet contradictory case in point. They are Christian followers of 3rd Century St Maron (St Maroun in Aramaic) who eventually came under the protection of the Roman Catholic Church around the 16th Century. However, the Roman Catholic Church had known about the small pockets of these early Christians hiding from the Muslim onslaught in the mountains of Lebanon, and in Antioch in modern Turkey, but didn’t consider them a threat. The Church expected that they would eventually be killed or die out from hunger and disease. When the Crusaders discovered them centuries later stubbornly hiding in the mountains, in caves and very poor, they were offered protection. The odd thing is that Rome allowed the Maronites to uphold certain doctrinal differences; priests could marry and Maronites held that Christ had a dual and divine human nature governed by a single divine will. Still, they had the full support and financial backing of Rome. This was even though Rome considered other Eastern Orthodox Christians’ doctrinal differences as ‘schismatic’ and a blatant insult to the supreme power of Rome and the Universal Church. But not evidently, heretical?
Excerpt concerning the end of the long and brutal campaign of the first crusade culminating in crusaders running amok in Jerusalem:
The assault was scheduled to start after dark on 13 July  with two simultaneous attacks each led by one of the siege towers…It was the tower commanded by Godfrey of Bouillon on the northern sector that, on the morning of 15 July, established the first foothold. Seeing the enemy secure a bridgehead on the ramparts, the defenders in this sector streamed back to the temple area to rally for a last stand around the al-Aqsa Mosque, but they surrendered to Tancred and flew his banner over the mosque promising to pay a large ransom in the negotiations that should follow the capture. Meantime blood crazed crusaders were streaming over the walls and through the streets of the northern part of the city slaughtering every living thing that crossed their path. No banner was going to save lives in this shambles, while the Jewish population of the city were cut down – man, woman, and child – where they stood hoping for sanctuary in their chief synagogue. They can have had little hope. Months before, news of the pogroms in the Rhineland had reached the city and most of its Jewish community had sided with its Muslim defenders, fearful of their fate should the place fall to the Christians. Now that fate was upon them. …It is doubtful whether any other of the inhabitants of Jerusalem on that dreadful day survived. …The slaughter lasted the best part of two days. When it was over, the crusade leaders went in solemn procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to give thanks to God… [my emphasis]
There was surely much to give thanks for. More than once over the years it had seemed that the army had survived only thanks to divine intervention. Even so some blenched at the butchery that had sealed their victory. …When reports did reach the West many churchmen expressed horrified dismay. Accounts of the shocking events reverberated through Muslim Syria.
Copyright to Anne Frandi-Coory and All rights Reserved 16 January 2015
From Author Halim Barakėt:…
We are a people who have lost their identity and their sense of manhood. Each of us is suffering from a split personality, especially in Lebanon. We are Arab and yet our education is in some cases French, in some cases Anglo-Saxon, and in others Eastern Mystic. A very strange mixture. We need to go back and search out our roots. We’re all schizophrenic…
*****A short story *Immigration And The Promise* Copyright To Anne Frandi-Coory – All Rights Reserved 17 January 2013*****
*****This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photographs can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.*****
…..But you should also be proud that your mothers and fathers came from a land upon which God laid his gracious hand and raised his messengers. – From a speech by Khalil Gibran I believe in you (1926)
The first two paragraphs of a short story Immigration and The Promise by Anne Frandi-Coory, published in
Jacob’s new business venture was all contained in the leather suitcase the Chinaman in Little Bourke Street had made for him. He said goodbye to Eva and set off down the stairs and out into a chilly winter morning. He planned to begin selling his wares to domestic households in and around the suburb of Fitzroy. All he had to say to customers in English was ‘Buy something lady?’ and ‘Thank you lady.’ All was going well until a policeman demanded to see his hawker’s licence. ‘Well, you must get a licence! A licence! No more knocking until you get a licence! Do you understand?’ Jacob just nodded and handed him the piece of paper Mr Kahlil had given him with his address on it and a rough map of city streets. Unbeknown to Jacob, the ‘White Australia Policy’ dictated that all non-Europeans were required to carry ‘Certificates of Exemption’ which enabled them to work temporarily as assistants to local merchants. In any event, Jacob continued with his door to door trade as the policeman walked away in the opposite direction. At dusk he decided to head back home, with his case almost half empty and a reasonable day’s earnings in his pockets. He then realised with alarm that he had given the street map to the policeman. He was so tired he lay down on a street sheltered by a building and took a little nap, resting his head on the suitcase. People had assured him, ‘There are no murderers or robbers here.’
Close to midnight Jacob became aware of a man approaching. He jumped up and opened his case for the stranger to see the display of shirts, socks, hats, silks, towels and small items of haberdashery. He felt no fear when the man looked him up and down and intimated with words and gestures, ‘Hang on, I’ll get my friend, he might buy something as well.’ Jacob waited with a leather belt around his neck attached to the open suitcase ready for the two men to view upon their return. However, four men came back, one with a knife who deftly cut the belt from around Jacob’s neck and after the other three kicked and punched him, all ran off. Jacob called out for police but when he did find one, neither could understand each other. At 1am all the street lights went out and the moonless night smothered any possibility of Jacob navigating his way home. When he found suitable shelter in a doorway, he once again made his aching body as comfortable as he could. For the first time since he had departed his home country, Jacob had plenty of time to reflect on how immensely his and Eva’s lives had changed in only two months…continued in Dragons, Deserts and Dreams.
…This was just the beginning of Jacob’s and Eva’s journey into the 20th Century….
Now, upon Syria’s land of roses
Softly the light of eve reposes,
And, like a glory, the broad sun
Hangs over sainted Lebanon;
Whose head in wintry grandeur towers,
And whitens with eternal sleet,
While summer, in a vale of flowers,
Is sleeping rosy at his feet.
To one who looked from upper air
O’er all the enchanted regions there,
How beauteous must have been the glow,
The life, now sparkling from below!
Fair gardens, shining streams, with ranks
Of golden melons on their banks,
More golden where the sunlight falls; –
Gay lizards, glittering on the walls
Of ruined shrines, busy and bright
As they were all alive with light;
And, yet more splendid, numerous flocks
Of pigeons, settling on the rocks,
With their rich restless wings, that gleam
Variously in the crimson beam
Of the warm west, – as if inlaid
With brilliants from the mine, or made
Of tearless rainbows, such as span
The unclouded skies of Peristan!
And then, the mingling sounds that come,
Of shepherd’s ancient reed, with hum
Of the wild bees of Palestine,
Banqueting through the flowery vales; –
And, Jordan, those sweet banks of thine,
And woods, so full of nightingales!
…………..- Thomas Moore (Ireland 1779-1852)
From ‘Paradise And The Perl’
***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.***
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.
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.
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…
The Roman Catholic Church aligns itself with the Maronites (the religion of my grandparents) in the mountains of Lebanon:…