In his March 3 speech before the US Congress, where he made the case against a US nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the life of Esther, also known as Haddasah, and the Persian plot to “destroy the Jewish people 2,500 years ago.”
According to the biblical narrative, Esther discovered the plot and ordered the hanging of the Persian viceroy Haman and his sons. That part of Esther’s biblical story became the basis of Purim, one of the most important Jewish celebrations. This year, this festival of salvation is celebrated today, March 4.
Like Haman, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is also bent on destroying the Jewish people and their homeland of Israel, Netanyahu said.
What Netanyahu did not mention was that Esther, was married to Ahasuerus, also referred to as Xerxes, a Persian ruler of the pre-Islamic Achaemenid Empire. Following her marriage, Esther, an orphan and adopted daughter of her uncle Mordechai, became the Jewish Queen of Persia, according to the Book of Esther.
Both Esther and her adoptive father Mordechai are buried in the Iranian city of Hamedan, at an ancient brick memorial that also house a synagogue.
A photographic essay of the vanishing mud-brick houses in Doha, Qatar
The corner of Malik Bin Anas and Sheraouh in Doha’s al-Salata district is only about ten minutes drive from the soaring skyline of West Bay. But it might as well be a century apart. Mud-brick houses line up the streets that are better designed for pedestrians and emaciated stray cats than cars. Fashioned in Halawa-inspired architecture, with narrow corridors leading to a central courtyard, these bungalows recall the fishing and pearl diving village that thrived around Doha Bay before Qatar became an oil and gas powerhouse.
Today, these houses are home to low-wage male migrants mostly from South Asia, some of whom are also fishermen. Time and the desert sun have prematurely aged the masonry of these buildings. Uneven doors and cracked walls reinforced with patches of cement and terra cotta also betray the less than standard construction techniques. The low-pitched roofs are stacked with assortments from used tires to rusty wheelbarrows and mattresses, while clotheslines compete with satellite discs — sight that may be an eyesore to many.
An exclusive interview with Middle East Scholar and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi
Text and photo by Ted Regencia
(An updated version of this article has been published in the online publication Your Middle East)
After a few days of relative calm, violence erupted anew in Syria with news reports claiming as many as 54 civilians killed on Wednesday despite a United Nations-backed ceasefire between President Bashar al-Assad and the rebel forces. On that account, calls for a U.S. led intervention, as a matter of “moral principle,” has resurfaced amidst diametric warnings on American forces being caught in another bloody quagmire.
It has been 14 days since special envoy and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan announced a truce on April 12. Since that day, activists have reported more than 460 casualties many in the besieged west-central city of Hama.
The fresh violence has prompted France to call for tighter sanctions against the Assad regime and issue a threat of arming the opposition. And here in the U.S., some segments in the foreign affairs establishment are advocating a muscular and military approach to the situation. Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that America should not wait for another Bosnia to happen before acting. Writing for the Washington Post, columnist Charles Krauthammer also called on the U.S. government for the “organizing, training and arming” of the Syrian rebels.