It wasn’t until this loss of our beloved neighbor that I got a real glimpse into the life I could have had if there was no risk of war, if I had stayed home. Many of my academic interests, tucked away in my neighbor’s resume, sealed in his brain forever.
We lived in the Old Syriac neighborhood in Aleppo in buildings built at the site of the refugee camp that was settled after the Ottoman genocides of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Out of sorrow a beautifully kept neighborhood sprang on the outskirts of the city, the image below is of the original camp and how the neighborhood grew. I look at those every time I remember my home.
I frequently dream about going home to study archaeology. Literally, dreams where I’m exploring ruins and visiting and revisiting Aleppo’s citadel, especially the hidden chambers below but also the star washed night sky above.
I need to brush up on my Arabic and start somehow learning Aramaic so I can someday go home and read his papers. My neighbor could have participated in the brain drain but he chose to go back and educate his own people. My heart burns from the pain of his death. How it must have felt to study all the glory of the civilization and to pass away while it was at its beastliest, while its children still tore at each other. That pain will haunt us for years.