May 28, 2012

Syrian Commotion

This weekend there was a disruption in the Syrian community. When the protests first began in Syria, there was a demonstration of support for Assad and the Syrian government here in Allentown. Allentown's Syrian community dates back to the 1900 era, when many families migrated from Amar, in the valley of the Christians. The Syrians, Jews and other ethnic groups lived and worked together in the 6th Ward. Second Street was almost exclusively home to the Jews and Syrians. In 1903 practically every house in the 600 block was Jewish, including my grandparents. Although the Jews migrated up town to 6th Street, there still is a Syrian presence in the Ward. Hafez Assad, father of the current president, supposedly had a Christian nanny, and an affinity for the minority. Ties between Second Street and the homeland have existed for many decades, including Syrian Ambassadors speaking at local events. In more recent years, newer immigrants have a more personal experience with the realities of the current regime. Tensions between the two groups, newer immigrants and the community here for a hundred years, erupted at a protest this weekend in center city. I invite my friends of Syrian descent to elaborate on this post.
reprinted from June 6, 2011

UPDATE: The turmoil in Syria has only greatly increased since this post was written last year. Let us hope for a quick resolution to the tragedies occurring there.


Anonymous said...

Here is my take as a non-Arabic speaker, non- Syrian.

1. The Assad family obviously oberate as a strongman goverment with all the internal security that implies. Lots of downsides--- big upside, no faction, minority or majority, gets too far outta line. Think Tito's Yugoslavia. The Assad family itself is not from the majority group and has historically protected various Christians sects including the several groups that comprise valley Syrians and Lebonease, historically and culturally, if not politically, the same people.
2 The Assad government is naturally most concerned about an " Islamist " inspired uprising bubbling to the fore. Christians and others fear this also naturally. ( Look at the trouble the Coptic Christians are beginning to experience in Egypt. )
So a dilemma for local Syrians- go with the not-so-nice guy that has protected you, and that you previousely didn't criticize, least not publically, or root for the righteous uprising, knowing full well that it could lead to a better tomorrow--- or maybe an even worse tomorrow for some minorities including Christians .
Say what you want about the bloody Assad's, at least they are secularists .

Anonymous said...

Assad is an a Alawi Shia, they make up just over 10% of the population, just a little more than the Christians, who are mostly Maronite, with some Greek Orthadox,, just like the Syrians in the valley.
Almost 75% of the pop. is Suni, that could be a big problem for all minorities ( Kurds,,Assyrians,Turkmens,Druse,Armenians etc.).

Assad is also a Ba-Athist. Decidedly not Islamist.

I'm willing to bet you don't hear much from the Valley's Syrians. They are most likely a bit embarresed about supporting Assad all these years, even if it made political sence. They also have family in Syria, a good reason to remain quite and hedge bets.

michael molovinsky said...

@3:13and5:08, my original post from last year, was built upon the wonderful photo shown; please click and enjoy. i wanted to present the history of the ward, where the new immigrants, jews and syrians, struggled together. as a third generation allentown jew, i grew up with third generation syrians. i agree with both your observations. last year, my syrian acquaintances spoke of a sunni insurrection, but seemed hopeful that the government would maintain order. i sensed that they were on the wrong side of history. this year, i wouldn't even ask.

Anonymous said...

MM, jeez, the Jews have long since abandoned 6th St., no?
And with the close of the Synagogue on Hamilton, seem to be fleeing west Allentown also, with the interesting excepts. of the rise in the orthodox population. You tell me, I'm Irish Catholic ( of course all Irish are Catholic, the rest aren't Irish, they are Orangemen! ).
How about a link to last years New York Times article on the rise of ultra- orthodox in Allentown? Most assh&@#s in Allentown never saw it, and of course our Republican friends know better than to read the paper of record, right?
Love the.history you bring to the conversation, even if 99% of the assh@$&s don't get it. F€#¥ them.

Anonymous said...

Michael, me thinks your right. Don't even ask. Tis a shame some Syrian Americans don't weight in annon.
It's down-right weird that there is not a Lehigh Valley Syrian/Lebenese blog, esp given the role bloging, tweeting, played in the " Arab Spring".
Parinoia runs deep!!!!!!!

Come on Allentown Syrians, prove me wrong. History is zooming by right NOW! Speak up or be punks.

michael molovinsky said...

@7:33, i do not expect any of our syrian friends to comment. as well stated by 3:13 and 5:08, these are tense times for the christians of syria, and their concerned relatives, here and elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Least we forget:; this is not some dusty backwater we are talking about.
Damascus is the oldest, continuously occupied city in the world. 6,000 years by most accounts.
In my experience, most Lebonese or Syrian Americans in the Lehigh Valley don't hold themselves out as being Arab. I always thought that was odd.

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michael molovinsky said...

on june 25, 2012 this post received two comments which referred to atrocities by the Assad Regime. Although I do not dispute the allegations per se, this post is not the place for them. This post, which is a reprint from 2011, suggests the dilemma of the local syrian community, and wasn't meant to discuss the difficult current events occurring in syria. i trust that there are blogs on that subject.