Sunday, March 17, 2013

SYRIA and LEBANON: In Ancient Days Was Phoenicia

Nadene Goldfoot
Syria and Lebanon are in the news today.  Syria has killed from 70,00 to 100,000 of its own citizens in President Bashar Assad's effort to maintain his presidential- monarchy since March 2011. Now a high ranking military officer has left him and has gone to Jordan.  Morale is breaking down.  They are also stepping up its use of widely banned cluster munitions which kill and wound their civilians.   Lebanon is affected by terrorists that have taken over the country.    The Syrian opposition has taken over an intelligence compound near the Golan Heights.  Syria and Israel have had a ceasefire since 1974.  Problems are starting with stray rockets landing in the Golan lately.  Aljazeera reports that 4 million of the 22 million population have been displaced.  Long ago both countries were simply a part of Phoenicia.

The religion of the Phoenicians was  the same religion that the Canaanites followed as described in the bible and as found in Ugaritic poetry.  The chief gods or deities were Baal, lord of fertility and the rains, and Astarte, goddess of fertility.  Anat was the goddess of war, and Melkarth was the patron-god of Tyre.  They worshipped under trees and on hills.  They also had temples with pictures.  The religious practice included the sacrificing of children to Moloch.  They dedicated religious prostitutes to their temples.

Tomorrow, Syria has the audacity to bring up Israel before the UN for harming the children in the Golan Heights, children that are Israeli citizens since the area has been annexed by Israel.  Like Golda Meier, former Prime Minister of Israel said once, "

  • Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.  What Syria has done to its own children is what they are now claiming Israel is doing to theirs which of course is a downright lie.  .  
  • .
    Phoenicians  lived along the Syrian-Eretz Yisrael coast.  Arvad, Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Gebal (Byblos), Simirro and Sin were their main towns.  At times they expanded north toward the later Antioch and south to the Carmel and even to Jaffa.   It is thought that originally the Phoenicians came from earlier Canaanites.  They spoke a Canaanite dialect.

    The language they spoke was close to Hebrew as we can tell from inscriptions.  Their writing was also similar to ancient Hebrew and was modified by the Greeks and then by other Europeans.

    The Egyptians controlled Phoenicia from the time when the Hyksos of 1500 BCE were expulsed to the time of Rameses III when Phoenician cities were ruled by the Hittites.

    Hiram of Tyre (10th century BCE) sent wood and craftsmen for David's palace, and  was closely connected to King Solomon of Israel.  He had cedar trees of Lebanon to give to King Solomon for his temple along with gold and craftsmen.  Tyrian metal-workers made the metal-fittings of Solomon's Temple. The Tyrian princess Jezebel married Ahab, king of Israel and son of Omri ruled (876-853 BCE)  and this caused religious and cultural influence into Israel and even to Judah.

    In the 8th century BCE Assyria subjugated most of the cities.  Later, Phoenicia was brought into the Persian Empire.  Greek influence and Hellenization spread quickly in Phoenicia.

    By 64 BCE Pompey brought them all under Roman rule.

    The Phoenicians were known for their ships and for trading with the known world.  They discovered distant lands and brought them products of the Middle East.  They established colonies from Cyprus to Carthage and Spain and paid tithes to Tyre.  Their competition was the Greeks.

    Some of their specialties were purple-dyes and glass manufacture.  Egypt and Greece gave them inspiration in their art.  "The Phoenicians were the first state-level society to make extensive use of the alphabet.  The Phoenician phonetic alphabet  is generally believed to be the ancestor of almost all modern alphabets.  It did not have any vowels in it, though. which were added later by the Greeks.  "

    "Spencer Wells  has conducted genetic studies that demonstrate that male populations of Lebanon,  Syria, Malta, Sicily,  Spain and other areas settled by Phoenicians, as well as the main Jewish populations, including modern Israel, share a common m89 chromosome (We all have 23 chromosomes).  Y type. m89 first arose around 40,000 years back; a lineage marker of 90 to 95 percent of all non-Africans who migrated out of Africa and settled in the fertile lands of the Middle East and beyond.

    Pierre Zalloua and Wells (2004), under the auspices of a grant from National Geographic Magazine examined the origins of the Phoenicians. The debate between Wells and Zalloua was whether haplogroup J2 (M172) should be identified as that of the Phoenicians or that of its "parent" haplogroup M89 on the YDNA phylogenetic tree. Initial consensus suggested that J2 be identified with the Canaanite-Phoenician (Northwest Semitic) population, with avenues open for future research. As Wells commented, "The Phoenicians were the Canaanites — and the ancestors of today's Lebanese."   It was reported in the PBS description of the National Geographic TV Special on this study entitled "Quest for the Phoenicians" that ancient DNA was included in this study as extracted from the tooth of a 2,500 year-old Phoenician mummy.  

    Based on the genetic dating methods utilized by Zalloua,  the J2 genetic marker dates back to around 12,000 years and stem from the Levant. The National Geographic Genographic Project  linked haplogroup J2 to some ancient towns such as Jericho, Tel -el-Sultan, ca. 8500 BC and indicated that in modern populations, haplogroup J2 is found in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. J2  alone is found at a frequency of (20%) in Southern Italians, and at lesser frequencies in Southern Spain (10%). Both haplogroup J, to whose descendants originally appeared exclusively in the Mediterranean area around 10,000 years ago, and its subgroup J2 constitute a combined frequency of about (30%) among Jews."  It is J1 that is called the Cohen gene, linking men to Aaron, Moses's brother, both Levites.

    Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
    Oregonian newspaper 3/17/13  page A8.

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