Don’t Let the Temple of Bel Die

Temple of Bel before and After Palmyra, Syria

I don’t often comment on politics or current events, but I feel compelled to write about the senseless and sickening destruction of one of Syria’s greatest treasures, the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, which was a UNESCO world heritage site.

I am deeply saddened and troubled by this ATTEMPT to revise history by one of the most destructive terrorist organizations in recent memory. There are things that we can do to keep the memory of places like the Temple of Bel alive. ISIS will not prevail and they will not eradicate two millennia of history simply because they don’t like it.

There will always be men like archaeologist  Khaled al-Asaad , who was publically beheaded for refusing to disclose the location of Syria’s priceless artifacts. He gave his life to protect the heritage that he loved.

Not all of us can go and fight ISIS directly, but there are things we can can do to counter the extremism seeping into the unguarded cracks of countries that are unwilling or unable to protect their heritage. That extremism will eventually find its way into the US. It is in fact already here in various forms. It’s easy to turn a blind eye at first, until one day you wake up and your entire history has been rewritten by a select few who don’t care for it. I am upset by this. If we turn a blind eye to Syria, then what’s next?

Temple of Bel Palmyra

What once was…….

There are dangerous parallels between the fundamentalism of ISIS, and the attempt to eradicate certain parts of history in the U.S. Stone Mountain Georgia? The Confederate flag? Statues of Robert E. Lee? Should we destroy these things simply because we don’t like them, or should we accept that history happened? Yes history happened! The good, the bad, and the ugly, history happened. Some of us may not agree with it, some of us may not like it, some of it may even be “wrong” by certain standards but history happened. History will always happen, any attempt to eradicate and rewrite the bits of history that we don’t like is a crime and a futile exercise based in ignorance.

What can we do to keep history alive? Talk about history. I know I will, with my students, with my friends, and with my family. Even if you don’t agree with history, talk about it. Talk about the Temple of Bel, talk about the rich and beautiful history of Syria before ISIS came along. By talking about history, keeping it in our collective living memories, we will keep it alive.

ISIS may have won the skirmish with the destruction of the Temple of Bel, but they will never win the war to rewrite the history of the world.

More Information:

Temple of Bel

Palmyra UNESCO World Heritage

Temple of Bel Destroyed BBC News Story


One thought on “Don’t Let the Temple of Bel Die

  1. I certainly agree with your take on historic preservation ~ I majored in history w/double minor in Latin and English ~ so it does sicken me to hear what ISIS is doing. And I don’t support the eradication of historical sites in the U. S. either; however, where the Confederate battle flag is concerned, there is a much larger, more important issue. A battle flag is a battle flag is a battle flag … and that is by its very nature belligerent. I think folks who are demanding that the battle flag be removed from public buildings and land are making a reasonable request. After all, we can also preserve the history of Nazism without Germany flying the swastika over its government buildings. Just my two cents worth… Excellent article!

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