Spring's Festivals

On April 4th, according to the Eastern calendar and when Spring adorns nature with wonderful green plants and colorful flowers, popular celebrations are held in different areas of the country. These celebrations, according to researchers, dated back to the myth of Adonis and "Fourth Day", as it is called in the Syrian coastal region.  According to the normal calendar, Fourth day coincides with the 17th of April which means  that the occasion becomes two. The first one celebrates the charming nature, while the second  celebrates the Evacuation Day.

Back to what is known as the "Fourth of Nisan", it is said that the celebration lasts for four days where people meet every day in a recently specified place such as: Salhab, Sheikh Osman and Abu Qubeis areas. It is actually a geographical festival rather  than a religious occasion.

 A number of Arab countries such as Lebanon and Egypt also celebrate the 4th Day of April. In Lebanon. It is called al-Zouhourieh, in an indication to the primroses of the Spring. 

Marking the Day, people sing and dance happily accompanied with the tune of the reed and the rhythm of the drum. .

These celebrations are also held in the northern city of Hama. It is worth mentioning that people celebrate a number of occasions in April such as St George's Day which is celebrated on April 23.

On 21st of April, according to some researchers, festivals used to be held to celebrate Zeus Cassius the god of countryside and the protector of cattle and herdsmen. It was also the anniversary of founding Rome and the celebration day of god Baal on Safon Mount which is currently called al-Aqrah Mount.

April celebrations mean for both adults and children an appointment with joy, pleasure and fun. They represent every region's heritage, customs and traditions. The Syrian coastal area increases its celebrations in this month. Some of them are periodical religious celebrations. The others are influenced  by old habits and have nothing to do with religion.

The " Fourth" festival, means the fourth day of April according to the Eastern calendar, which is similar, to a large extent, to  Easter, where people welcome Spring  with joy and hope. The" Fourth" occasion flourished in the Syrian coastal villages after the evacuation of the French colonialism in the seventeenth of April according to the Western calendar, which falls on the fourth of April according to the Eastern calendar.

At the mid of the fifties and sixties of last century the Syrian coastal countryside used to receive the Fourth" holiday in a special way that distinguished them from other regions."

Each group of villages used to choose a suitable place to mark the occasion where they set up swings for children and held stages for Dabkeh, dance and singing folkloric songs.

Kids, young people and even students from other villages eagerly use to wait for the feast in order to play the hammocks. Those who want to marry go to participate in the event, since the Fourth was a good opportunity to meet young girls, speak to them and even share a dance with beautiful girls. If a young man fell in love with one of the girls, he would ask about her village and her family. The next day he came with his father to engage her.

Interestingly, the joy of the feast has attracted in the recent years a large number of young men and girls to participate in the celebration and they are still waiting eagerly for the occasion to come .

Amal Farhat

A Poem on the carnage in Palestine

Palestine: Amer Nasser - aged seventeen - A Last Poem

"We have an appointment with death,
We have become familiar with our shores of despair ..."
(Samih al-Qasim, b. 1939)
On Wednesday late evening (the 3rd of April) and overnight, two unarmed teenagers, cousins Amer Nassar (17) and Naji Abdul-Karim Balbeisi (18) were shot dead by Israeli war Force troops. 
The two were from the village of Anabta, near the town of Tulkarm, in Palestine's West Bank. Tulkarm was founded in the 13th century, its name derived from the Aramaic "Toor Karma" meaning "mount of vineyards."

Amer died from a bullet in his chest at 22.30 on Wednesday night, according to eye witnesses. Hearing shots, three boys from the village went out and found Amer lying on the ground, with soldiers standing over him. When they tried to reach him, the soldiers opened fire, injuring one, Fadi Abu-A'sr, in the arm, who was subsequently hospitalized.
The three say that ambulance crews were prevented from reaching Amer for thirty vital minutes, with threats to shoot anyone attempting to intervene. Deiyaa' Nasser, who did attempt to reach Amer"was arrested by the Israeli Army and taken to an unknown location."
Naji Abdul-Karim Balbisi was found as dawn broke on the following morning, lying in a field. He was reported to have been shot from behind.
So, as Palestinians mark another onslaught, the massacre in the Jenin refugee camp (April 1st-11th 2002) the mourning, heartbreak, lost lives and lost youth grind on. But so does the spirit, the historic roots, in young and old.
Seventeen year old Amer Nasser left a poem. When others of his age write on facebook of their dreams, aspirations, exams, plans , dates, travels, on the 15th of March, his last entry, he wrote (translated):
"Point your bullet wherever you like in my body
I will die today, but my homeland will live tomorrow
Be careful, Palestine is a red line."
He did not die on March 15th, but just two weeks and three days later, at the hands of brutal Israeli forces.

As America says, but we say, Palestine will live, inspite of Zionism savagery. 
source: Pravda.Ru


Meeting Requirements of Students with Special Needs a Must- Al-Shammat

DAMASCUS, (ST) _ Minster of Social Affair Dr. Kinda Al-Shammat stressed yesterday the importance of meeting all the requirements of students with special needs to help them develop their skills and abilities in all the domains in implementation of the Ministry's plan to engage them in the social and economic life.

Al-Shammat's remarks were made following her visit to an art exhibition for students with special needs at the University City. In a statement to SANA, Al-Shammat referred to the possibility of signing a memo of understanding between the ministry and the National Union of Syrian Students (NUSS) to provide necessary care to disabled students and improve the quality of the health and educational services rendered to them.

For his part, Director of the University City Dr. Ibrahim Joumaa underlined the importance of this exhibition as it shows the creativity of the disabled students in inventing various pieces of art, stressing the keenness of the NUSS and the Special Needs Commission at the University City to make the event a success.

“Disability is not an obstacle facing invention as long as there is a will and determination and necessary resources are available.” said one of the participants in the event

Another participant called for involving disabled students in all the events and exhibitions which highlight their efforts and creation.


Ibrahim Zaaboub

The Story of The First Martyr in Homs

"Everything in life  has a starting point  and life is full of  surprising and unexpected events that change the course of our life." With  these words Mrs. Wa'ed Karakeet, the wife of martyr Adel Suleiman Fandi started the story of her husband's martyrdom. 

 " Over the past two years, we were watching  what was going on the neighboring Arab countries. It was something new and strange that we never experienced. People  were demonstrating in the streets calling for the overthrow of their governments. The state of unrest and bloody coups  did not mean anything for us as. What they asked for and suffered  from were far away from us and these mobs in the streets didn't represent our people. We were sure that Syria will not be a part of this crazy chaos that leads to nothing but to  more killing, looting and savage destruction. We do believe that Syria is immuned against such immoral and sinister acts and we will not experience such painful events until

I received  a phone call telling me that my husband was hit by a number  of terrorists who were demonstrating in the street near the  building where he was  working  and he is now  in the hospital."

Trying to muffle her sobs, she said: "I went quickly to the hospital, for  my great astonishment, I found the hospital director waiting for me at the entrance to tell  me that my husband had martyred.  I did not understand the meaning of what he was trying to tell me. I couldn't find any reasonable explanation for what I have just heard. I started to cry hysterically and scream telling nonsense  until I fell down unconsciously".  

"When I restore my consciousness and discovered the bitter truth, Wa'ed continued sadly, the hospital director told me that my husband sacrificed himself in  defense of his home when a group of terrorists went on the  so-called peaceful demonstration and began to attacked everyone they found in front of them from the police and security forces. They  destroyed  the  public utilities and state institutions  where your husband was working . When he tried to  prevent the mobs vandalizing the building, that he was guarding they hit him on the head. By these simple words the hospital director told me how my husband has been killed".

She went on to say: "Martyr is a magic word that we heard a lot about but we did not know any martyr for a long time as  our town   did not receive any martyr since the end of the civil war in Lebanon .

We have read a lot about the greatness of the martyrs and about their distinguished position with their Lord. We saw a lot of the state's offers for the children of the martyrs and their families. I heard  a lot of consolation words and I saw bitter tears in the eyes of everyone who came to congratulate on my husband's martyrdom. I was still in shock shedding bitter tears of sadness and pain. I did not pay attention to my three children who have been left alone. We have no  supporter or financial resource except the salary that we receive every month. Now we are alone in this world ..... I have  no job , I do not master any profession and I did not  complete my education. First and foremost,  my husband's  family is  very poor and do not have enough money to help  us ."

"At the  day of martyr funeral , great number of  people came to our small village; the Governor, Chairman of the Party branch, military leaders, dignitaries and members of the Parliament. Everyone participate in the farewell of the first martyr  in Homs hoping that he will be the last".

Highlighting the generous offers and the special care provided to her family  by the State in general and Mr. President in Particular, Wa'd said: "After the calm that prevailed following the storm of martyrdom I began to recover my balance and arrange  my thoughts. I do not know what I have to do. Actually there was not much to think about. A few days following the funeral I have received a lot of phone  calls and the surprise was that one of these contacts was from the First Lady.

I did not  know whether I should be happy or sad or how to express my feelings. I am certainly happy and I cannot believe that the First Lady is calling to console the death of my husband but the biggest surprise was when I was invited to visit her with my children at the Presidential Palace.

The meeting was a mixture of joy and sadness where I met Mr. President and the First Lady. The joy of my children was beyond every description when Mr. President kissed them and sat with them exchanging talks about the nobility of martyrs who sacrifice themselves for the sake of their homeland.

This meeting has eased a lot of the orphanhood bitterness felt by my children. Their meeting with like-father President was wonderful and sentimental.

After that meeting, office of Mr. President continued to contact with us regularly. They informed me that  Mr. President has issued instructions that met all our requests, especially when I asked him for a job because I must grow up my  kids of my work. I actually have given the helping hand from the government authorities and I have got an appropriate  job  in Homs so I decided to continue my study.

The great will that I have gained from the martyrdom of my husband and the great and unlimited support provided  by Mr. President and the first lady  were a great incentive for me to extend my career, family and study as well. So my days were filled with work , diligence and fatigue during the day and night until I got the intermediate studies  certificate and my kids succeeded in their schools with honors".

"Now, after two years following my husband's martyrdom, Syria is still offering more martyrs and the Syrians are still steadfast defending their history and protecting their homeland from the schemes targeting its existence.

I hope that all the great mothers who lost their sons during this ordeal and the children who have lost their parents and lovers to believe that victory will be snatched by he who resists and defends the right.

Martyred heroes would but oil the shinning torch of Syria's soon-to-be victory over the forces of darkness". The hero's wife concluded proudly.

Amal Farhat  

"Damascene Jasmine" activity concluded

A group of youths launched an activity called "Damascene Jasmine" to brief society about activities and initiatives being carried out within shelters (in which displaced families are temporary living) and outside them.

The three-day activity, organized by the Syria Trust for Development in cooperation with Charity Commission for Relief the Palestinian People, is to be kicked off on Saturday morning (on April 13 ) at the Art House Hotel in Mezzeh area in Damascus.

According to a copy of press release sent to the Syria Times, the activity contains exhibition for collection of paintings, bazar, auction, music playing, and a film.

The activity in which children living in shelters and those living in hosting societies are working together mainly aims to achieve integration between them according to the goal of an initiative called 'integration through art works'.

Here, we can mention that the Trust has recently launched three initiatives for educating affected children in Damascus, and this activity reflects successful outcome of these ongoing initiatives.

Revenues are to go towards support other aid and development initiatives.

In fact, such initiatives prove Syrian people' determination to continue education despite current crisis the country is going through.

The Trust is supervising 22 shelters in Damascus and has launched several aid and development initiatives to alleviate suffering of citizens affected by the two-year old crisis.  

Basma Qaddour     


Strength through adversity - Daily life in Gaza

Every morning at four o'clock, I get up from bed, before starting university, to fulfill, with as much patience and perseverance as I can bring to life, the task I have assigned myself. I feel obligated to let the world know about the suffering of ordinary people where I live, here in Gaza. Recently, on a beautiful day, I was given the opportunity to meet the wife and children of one of Gaza's martyrs.

I phoned her beforehand to get her permission. I was concerned she might not want to see anybody, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. With a friendly smile, she welcomed me to her humble home. As I sat down beside her, I said: "I am Rana, and I am here to tell the world your story and to describe how you live after the ugly crime you witnessed. I will also do what I can to share your message."

At that moment, her little son, crawling on his belly, came towards me. I hugged him and kissed his head. For a moment, I forgot everything and played with the child, his mother joking with me, saying "you can take him with you." The little boy's name is Ghaith and he is nine months old. This sweet little child will never share his childhood with his father. He will never bask in his father's love and affection. All of this was stolen from him.

After I had been playing with the child for a few minutes, the mother, twenty-seven years old, began to tell her story. I just listened, letting her words flow.

Her husband was on vacation from work. Each morning during this time he would visit his mother. On one of these days, back home after seeing his mother, he stood outside picking tangerines for his older son Anas, who was barely three years of age. "Drones were everywhere," said the woman. Her husband phoned a friend, telling him to come over and collect some money that he was owed. The friend stopped by. As he was leaving, the drones spewed their deadly fire.

The woman fell silent for a few seconds, then added: "I heard the missile, but I didn't think it had such a strong impact." But when she went out to see where the rocket had struck she was horrified to see her husband laying on the ground, their son in his lap. Frantically, she started calling her husband's name: "Mahmoud! Mahmoud! Mahmoud!"

There was no reply. Mahmoud was no longer alive and Anas was crying out in pain. "I held him and screamed for someone to help me." Some men rushed to the scene and took the boy and his mother to the hospital. Mahmoud's friend was also killed in the attack.

While we were talking, her third son, Moa'ath, returning from Kindergarten, ran toward his mother to tell her what happened at school that day. At five years old, he is the eldest child.

"Because of what he witnessed, he suffers from trauma and distress. He shouts day and night," the mother said.


As she was grieving over her child's pain, she collapsed into a burst of tears, unable to control herself any longer. I tried to comfort her, but it felt like an almost impossible task. Still hoping to calm mother and son, I asked Moa'ath what his dreams are for the future. "I want to be in the military", he said. "I want to avenge my father and my brother." With childish innocence, he added: "Before, Israel was good, but now they're not anymore. They are criminals and I don't love them."

In my previous article, "Child Victims of Israeli Violence," I mentioned Anas's injuries as among the most serious of Israel's gruesome attack on Gaza. The child, who is still in Intensive Care, had an operation to repair twenty-five perforations in his intestines. Ten days later, he was transferred to a hospital abroad, where he underwent a six hour operation to remove any remaining shrapnel fragments. Anas has one more operation ahead of him. Though his condition is still serious, it is stable.

As I wrapped up my interview, the mother expressed her gratitude to God. She called upon God to help her to raise her three children, Moa'ath, Anas, and Ghaith. I asked her one final question: "If you could send one message to the world, what would it be?" With a strong voice, she replied: "I only wish that Israel gets duly punished for all these cruel crimes."

The woman's story is but one among many that illustrates the consequences of Israel's violent behavior and human rights violations toward the people of Gaza.

Nevertheless, in Gaza, the human spirit desperately grabs hold of determination and self-sacrifice, attempting to deal with the challenge of waiting for sunrise through all the terror-filled hours of darkness. Together, we stand in the river of hope, transformed and transforming, laughing, crying, yet grounded and buoyed by courage and an unfathomable and amazing grace.

As we experience the incomprehensibility of Israeli aggression, we never forget that as our struggle aims to resist and to break the power of Zionist hegemony, our efforts are really about regaining our rights and, ultimately, about obtaining peace.


Pinned by:Rana Alshami



Plan to Build New Housing Units for Displaced Families

Providing shelters for the displaced families staying in refugee camps outsideSyria has become an urgent need and a top priority to the government which adopted several procedures tohelp these families return to their homeland. 

Within this framework, the Local Administration Ministry's Reconstruction Committee has recently decided to establish 10 housing units, with a capacity of 10 thousand peopleas temporary shelters to welcome the Syrian families who were forcibly displaced by armed terrorist groups.

According to Director of Ministry’s International Cooperation Department, Eng. Rafah al-Baridi,the project will hopefully  be ready in months. Each unit is due to include an education center, clinic and all equipments needed to ensure good live to the displaced.

 Some 800 million SYP is earmarked to implement the project, said al-Baridi.

The Ministry has also spared no effort to provide basic needs to terrorism affected families living in temporary sheltersin different Syrian cities until they are able to return to their original places.

Al- Baridi said in a recent statement that the ministry in cooperation with the Higher Commission for Refugees is also working to rehabilitate and equip more than 200 temporary shelters for families displaced abroad in different governorates at an estimated cost of 240 million SYP.

 They are scheduled to be ready in June, she added, pointing out that this will be done in cooperation with  a number of international and local organizations like the Syrian Trust for development andthe Syria Society for Social Development. In addition, she said, the plan includes providing financial assistance to most needed displaced families, noting that forty thousand families are targeted in this plan.

Concerning cooperation between the ministry and the UNICEF, al-Baridi said the organization will be keen to provide necessary support to rehabilitate and maintain the sewage network  in temporary shelters so as to meet the requirements of citizens in all governorates.

On the work mechanism, al-Baridi said that the ministry tries to getan assessment for the number of displaced families and ensure necessary resources in order to meet the needs of the displaced Syrian citizens by coordinatingefforts with its partners in relief work at the Higher Relief Committee together with some international humanitarian organizations acting in Syria within theframework of the humanitarian response plansigned between the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry and international organizations including the UN Higher Commission for Refugees, The UN Food Program, the UNICEF, the UN Development Bank and concerned UN bodies.

H. Mustafa