Pray for Syria, a concert for a country and a people who can use all the prayers we can pray. On May 4, conductor Valery Gergiev, and the Russian Mariinsky Theater Orchestra played a benefit concert for the UNESCO site at Palmyra, and a tribute to the men who liberated the city from ISIS a few weeks before, in Palmyra’s historic amphitheater. The concert was played before an audience that included Syrian and Russian soldiers who have remained in Palmyra to clear bombs left behind by ISIS to destroy the site and the nearby town of Tadmor. They dedicated the performance to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, a Russian Soldier who sacrificed his life during the retaking of the city, and to Aleksandr Prokhorenko, the Syrian proprietor of the Archeological site there who was beheaded by ISIS and hung from a column in the main square at the historic site.
I finally found time to listen to the concert last night. I can attest, after listening, that Gergiev and his orchestra put on a brilliant performance. Moreover, the outdoor setting, the splendor of the ancient ruins in the midst of open desert under a cloudless blue sky, where the audience sat on the same bleachers as members of the Roman Empire more than two millennia ago was an austere space, but also a sort of dreamscape where past and present overlap in simple perfection. And the music, the music was exquisite, During intermission, children with wreaths of flowers in their hair sang a patriotic song. What a lovely and gracious gift to the people of Syria!
View the concert below:
#Aleppo is on fire, alright. But, it doesn’t look quite the way the Western Mainstream Media reports it. On April 28th, the New York times reported, Divided Aleppo Plunges Back Into War as Syrian Hospital Is Hit. The article gives context to events in the first paragraph as follows: “as they reeled from government airstrikes that demolished a hospital in the insurgent-held side and from retaliatory mortar assaults by rebels on the government-held side.” It goes on to quantify the casualties on the ‘rebel’ side and to give details of the destruction there. Twitter is aflutter with #AleppoBurning and #AleppoHospital tweets castigating the government forces for violating the cease fire and attacking a hospital, ‘killing the last pediatrician in Aleppo’.
I don’t know about the strike on the hospital. I don’t know if the hospital was a hospital before the war, and if not, it it was identified as a hospital for forces. The claim is that it was, in which case there is not justification for bombing the site. However, the context of this report is all wrong. The bombing of the hospital was not the beginning of this battle, nor a peremptory violation of the cease fire. And though it is a tragedy that people were killed, that a doctor was killed, the doctor. was not the last pediatrician in Aleppo nor can we be certain that the majority of casualties occurred among the U.S. supported fighters and their families holding a small portion of the city in Eastern Aleppo.
According to a journalist in Aleppo writing under the name Edward Dark, there are 2 million people in the government held portion of Aleppo, and 200 thousand in the so called ‘rebel held’ area, which he claims is populated by Al Nusra and their associates. Constant shelling over the last week of civilian areas in West Aleppo, the 75% of the city held by the government, have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties.