Thursday, March 31, 2016


I visited Syria in 2009, two years before simmering unrest erupted into the civil war that continues to kill, injure and dislocate millions of innocent people.  Accompanying the human tragedy has been the destruction of places and relics, many of which are irreplaceable remnants of great historical significance.

Palmyra is such a place.  ISIS occupied the city nearly a year ago and set about destroying and damaging sculptures, temples, theaters and other structures dating back 2,000 years.  When I read about what was happening in Palmyra it felt very personal, since I had gone deep into the desert seven years ago to see it all for myself.

I have a clear memory of walking through the Roman ruins that make Palmyra a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of wandering down the main street of this small town, eating in a simple sidewalk cafĂ©, visiting small shops.  Unlike other tourist attractions, we saw very few foreigners in Palmyra, and felt like we had the place all to ourselves.  A very pleasant memory.

So I was thrilled to hear that the government has retaken Palmyra and ISIS is gone.  They say the damage is less that was feared and much can be repaired.  I hope so.  While bricks and mortar are secondary to the suffering inflicted on people, there is something special about a place like Palmyra, which is a window into our past.


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