20 March 2012

So an Assyrian and a Jew walk into Lydda

Bifel I sat next to an Assyrian on the airplane.
No, Assyrian.
Really? I did not know that you still exist, I said, stupidly, looking at the woman sitting next to me and trying not to think of her as a bas-relief.
Yes -- there are some thousands, scattered round the world, she said. And we still fast for the three days that Nineveh fasted when Jonah told it to. The pious do not eat at all for three days and three nights running.
Do you have a tradition as to the identity of that king of Nineveh? We do.
Is that in the Bible? she asked, surprised, being conversant with the text.
No, I said, it is an oral tradition.
Oh. No, we don't have such a tradition. It is not clear that we are actually descended in a straight line from those ancient Assyrians, but we identify with them. We name our children Ashur and Sargon.

We then had a very interesting conversation about whether it is possible for religion and nationhood to overlap.
We did not discuss ancient history.