The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War Book Review

Books are more than words on a page. They can educate, inspire, and provide hope in a time when all seems lost.

The Syrian Civil War will be a decade old next year. As of 2015, 3.8 million Syrians found refuge outside of their home country. 380,000 souls have been lost since 2011. Once thriving cities and towns have been destroyed beyond recognition. And yet, those who stayed found light and life via books.

The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War was published last month. Written by Delphine Minoui and translated by Lara Vergnaud, the book follows the conversations Minoui had with a group of resistance fighters who kept a secret library in Daraya during the war. As government forces pounded the city, these young men came upon a small library. Within a month, they created a sanctuary that contained 15,000 books. Containing literature of every genre and subject, they found a brief respite from the destruction that was their new normal. Speaking to journalist Delphine Minoui via social media, they told the story of survival, hope, and faith.

I found the concept to be compelling. Beyond my love of books, I was drawn to the idea that the medium is able to give us something to hold onto when all seems lost. The problem is that the story does not live up to the hype it creates.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.


Another Rat Jumps From The Sinking Ship: James Mattis Resigns

One of the most important aspects of being a leader is knowing when to listen to your own intuition and when to listen to others.

In response to you know whose decision to remove US troops from Syria, General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis announced his resignation as Secretary Of Defense.

In his resignation letter, he stated, the following:

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,”

The rats are jumping the sinking ship. One by one, they are either quitting or being fired. Just another reason why you know who is ill qualified to lead this country.

Thoughts On Last Night’s Syria Strike

Last night it was announced that US, UK and France successfully hit its targets in Syria. The airstrike was in response to the chemical attack on the citizens of Douma last weekend.

While the airstrike does it’s job in sending a message to the Syrian regime, there is a component missing that is ignored at least by the current administration: the Syrian refugees who are being prevented from entering the United States. So far this year, only 11 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the country.

Since you know who took office last year, the parallels to Nazi Germany have been spoken of frequently.

In May of 1930, the St. Louis sailed from Hamburg to Havana. Most of the passengers were Jews, looking for sanctuary from the destruction and prejudice they were experiencing in Europe.

To make a long story short, the ship was stuck in limbo. Only a handful of the passengers were allowed to disembark in Cuba. America refused to open her doors to those who were still on board. As a result, the ship has to return to Europe. While some of the allied countries took a few passengers, the rest were sent back to Germany. 254 of the passengers were killed in the Holocaust.

While I cannot disagree that we need to protect our borders, we need to open our country up to those who are suffering the most. Military strikes send a message, but so does opening the door and welcoming a people who have lost nearly everything.

But then again, this administration, like the one that turned away the St. Louis seems not to care.

Thoughts On Yom Hashoah 2018

Today is Yom Hashoah.

Today we say never again. Today we remember the millions of people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were murdered by the Nazis and the collaborators simply for being who they were.

The problem is that while we say never again, ethnic genocide is still happening across the world.

The Rohingya Muslims are a minority from Myanmar. Since last summer, nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees escaped to Bangladesh. They were the lucky ones. Countless others were murdered for no other reason that being born a Rohingya Muslim.

It’s no secret that the war in Syria is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people. The gas attack last week in Douma left around 100 dead. The survivors, mostly women and children, scrambled to the local hospital to remove the chemicals from their bodies.

It’s 2018. I would have hoped that by now, we would have learned our lesson. We would have stood up to dictators and despots before they killed their own people. We would have stopped ethnic cleansing before it began.

I guess that our lesson has yet to be learned.

Sean Spicer Should Be Fired

It’s no secret to anyone who has kept their eye on Washington DC since the inauguration in January that it has not been a smooth transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. Not that the first few months of any Presidential administration is smooth, but this transition seems to be rougher than the previous administrations.

The latest gaffe coming out of The White House is Sean Spicer’s comments comparing the gassing of innocent Syrian civilians to the murders of Jews and others by the Nazis during World War II.

Sean Spicer should be fired. Not only are his comments rude, insensitive, historically inaccurate, but they were also uttered on Passover, of all days.

While both acts are reprehensible and should force anyone with a heart and a brain to reel in shame, horror and disgust, the fact that Mr. Spicer downplayed the Holocaust and fact that innocent civilians were killed by chemical weapons is more than enough of a reason that he should be fired.

Next time (if there is a next time), I suggest that whomever writes his speeches does their homework before coming to the podium.

Let Them In, Mr. President

Dear President Trump

As we all know, the news coming out of Syria the last few days is beyond horrific. Innocent civilians, including young children were murdered by the Assad regime.

You have a choice now. Future generations will judge your Presidency based upon the actions you take.

Before I continue, I feel the need to tell you about the SS St. Louis. On the eve of World War II, the SS St. Louis left Germany for North America. Her passengers were all Jews suffering under the tightening noose of the Nazis. This was their last chance to escape Europe. The ship had to turn around because the borders of North America were closed. By the end of the war, half of those aboard were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices.

Syria is one of those countries listed on your Muslim Travel Ban. While I have no problem with vetting potential immigrants to prevent a future terrorist attack, I can’t help but think of the millions that might have survived World War II if only America and other Western countries had opened their borders.

You have a decision to make. You can open our borders (with appropriate vetting) to those who need the sanctuary most or you can keep our borders closed and watch as more innocent Syrian citizens are murdered by their government.

Let them in, Mr. President

A Troubled Citizen Of The World

We HAVE To Talk About Syria

Dear world,

We HAVE to talk about Syria and specifically what is going in Aleppo. We cannot no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend like everything is hunky dory. Everything is not hunky dory. Aleppo is one of the oldest cities in the world, humans have lived there for thousands of years.

What was once a thriving metropolis has been reduced to a metropolis of ash and rubble. Innocent lives have been lost. Whatever the futures held for those murdered, we will never know. Those lucky enough to still be alive have either left with only the clothes on their back and not much else, or if they have not left yet, are hoping and praying that they will be allowed to leave alive.

Where is the UN? Why have they allowed this war to go on for nearly five years, knowing that lives were lost and those lucky enough to get out are now refugees?

We should all be ashamed of ourselves. Our fellow humans are suffering and we have done nothing to help them. We let them suffer and die because we refused to take a stand.

At the end of World War II, the citizens of Europe who were not subject to the Nazi atrocities were forced to admit their complicity in the mass slaughter of their fellow citizens. They were marched into the concentration camps and see the destruction that they were part of. We are those citizens.

One of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes as follows:

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

May G-d have mercy on those who have suffered. They deserve that much.

Omran Daqneesh, The War In Syria And The Real Human Rights Tragedy

This past week, an image flew around the world.

It’s no secret that the war in Syria has created a massive refugee crisis. 250,000 innocent civilians have been killed. Millions more fled Syria, hoping to rebuild their lives in Europe, America and other Middle Eastern countries.

Omran Daqneesh’s family chose to stay, instead of fleeing with their neighbors and friends. This week, this little boy’s home was bombed. While the family survived physically, emotionally, they may never been the same.

The image of this little boy sitting in the ambulance is heartbreaking. Covered in dust and blood, his eyes are emotionless.

My heart breaks for this child. While the physical wounds will heal, the emotional wounds may never heal. This boy did nothing to either the Syrian government or the rebels, but he and his family must suffer the consequences of this senseless war.

The question I have to ask is where are the protests against the Syrian government? Where are the demands for either side to back down and come to the table peacefully? There are none.

While this child and his family are the true face of the senseless violence and the cost of war, the vitriol and the fake accusations against Israel continue unabated.

The BDS movement takes pleasure in promoting falsehoods and breaking down Israel, while ignoring the facts and the true human rights tragedy of our time.

Did I mention that Syrian refugees who cross the border into Israel are being treated at Israeli hospitals? Did I also mention that Israeli Arabs have full rights under the Israeli government and are treated no differently than citizens of other faiths?

Maybe it’s time we looked at the facts before we opened our mouths.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

On Syrian Immigration

The statistics are scary. According to a Reuters article from February, the number of civilians killed in the Syrian war was about 200,000 and growing.

The number of people who have left Syria looking for a safe haven from the violence and destruction is 4,289,792. Taking the figures from a bustle article, most of the refugees are not young men of fighting age, but women and children.

After the attack in Paris last week, there are many around the world who are questioning if opening the borders to refugees is a good idea.

Despite her flaws and her problems, I believe in America. I believe in her potential, I believe in the democracy that does not force a specific political, legal or religious ideology down the throats of her citizens, but allows them to live as they wish.

I believe in America because 100 years ago, she opened her doors to millions of immigrants who were seeking a new life and new opportunities. My relations are among these millions.

The question that has to be asked is, how can be welcome these refugees into the United States, while prevent the more radical elements from sneaking in and then replaying the Paris attack in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, etc?

My heart truly breaks for these people, especially for the children whose childhoods are interrupted. No one should have to experience what these children have experienced.

While I don’t have the answer to the question, I can only hope that someone who has the power to make these decision does.

The New Trail Of Tears

Human history is full of people, who in facing death and destruction, have left their homes and communities in hopes of finding save haven elsewhere.

In American history, one of the most shameful episodes is the Trail of Tears. In  the 1830’s, nearly a half dozen Native American tribes were forced to leave their homes and ancestral lands by the American government.  Among the 15,000 members of the Creek tribe that were being forced to relocate, 3500 died before reaching their final destination.

The new Trail Of Tears starts in Syria and ends in Europe. Thousands have abandoned their homes and communities in hopes of escaping the violence, chaos and destruction that have engulfed their lives.

We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands. Where is the UN? Where are the governments of the first world, where democracy is the law of the land?

They do nothing, as usual.

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