Tag Archives: syria; syrian civil war

Real Syrians

scan0049 scan0048Al and I have travelled outside the United States many times in the past several years.  That was a dream of mine back when we were a financially-struggling young couple tied down by two young children.  And so, in those days, we instead brought the world to us.  Through the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors, we occasionally hosted for a meal people who were visiting our city from other countries.  Over the course of 3 or 4 years, we shared meals with two visitors from Egypt, two from Germany, and many from Japan.  Our favorites, though, were a family from Syria:  Professor H I, his wife N and their chubby, dark-eyed baby boy. (I use only their initials here, on the off chance that using their names could bring them harm)

All of our guests were polite and pleasant, but the I’s were by far the warmest and most engaging.  H was instantly drawn to the bookcases in our cramped dining room.  He had read many of the books that we owned, and we were charmed by his deep knowledge of and respect for American history.  N and I bonded over children and a shared interest in cooking.  I still have and use her tabouleh recipe.

N was comfortable enough with me to express her surprise that my elderly grandparents attended our family Thanksgiving dinner.  “In Syria,” she explained, “we all think that Americans don’t care about your old people.”  She was gratified to learn otherwise, and both she and her husband were gently respectful of my grandparents, and genuinely interested in what they had to say.

We lost touch with the I’s after they returned to Syria, and I hadn’t thought of them for years until the recent civil war in their homeland.  They are now in my prayers daily.  I wonder what happened to them.  They were upper-middle class people with contacts outside Syria, so perhaps they escaped the country.  Or they may be living in the relative safety of Damascus.  I wonder about that baby boy, who was about the same age as my own son.  Did he escape Syria, get a European education and settle someplace like Berlin or London?  Is he fighting alongside government or rebel forces?  Has he been radicalized by ISIS, like so many young men in that part of the world?

I support careful scrutiny of anyone who wants to immigrate to the United States from countries infected with the ISIS virus.  But, in honor of my short friendship with the I’s, I feel compelled to remind my readers that the suffering people of Syria are human beings who read books just like we do, and enjoy good food just like we do, and love their babies and their grandparents just like we do.

God be with you, H and N, I hope you and your boy are safe.