Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Some good, bad, and sad news.

     It is incredibly encouraging for me to be able to leave you in my last post on this blog, with some encouraging news. A crucial amendment has been added to a devastating law. In 1959, Greece gave up their rights to persecute Nazis, which is sadly another reflection of the Anti-Semitism that seems to abound there. Alois Brunner of Syria reportedly led 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews to their death during the Holocaust. Now thanks to the law’s appeal, Brunner will be extradited if he is found alive, as will any others responsible for such atrocities. Most are no longer alive; however, as David Saltiel, the chairman of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, says, “This is more of a moral victory.” And so it is a small taste of victory and a step in the right direction for bringing peace to the Jews in Greece.

     On a less hopeful note, three months after the arson attacks on synagogues on the islands of Greece, which got my attention when I started writing this blog, arsonists have struck again. However, this time they hit a Muslim center on the island. This attack happened Friday. The center functions both as a Mosque and a Muslim office building. It is yet another reminder of the religious intolerance that still reigns in Greece.

      Over the course of this semester I have posted facts and bits of information I found interesting concerning Anti-Semitism and religion in Greece. My hope is that I have not in any way been unfair to the people of Greece. Greece is most definitely a breathtakingly beautiful country, and I would absolutely love to visit it someday. My interview with Alex, left me questioning whether I had made too big of a deal out of the issue in Greece, but I feel it is still an issue even if only 1 or 3 Jews in Greece experience persecution. In free countries, we promote equal rights for everyone. Therefore, it is absolutely disgraceful and unacceptable when anyone suffers for their beliefs here in the U.S. or in any country that considers itself to be fair, balanced, and liberated. My goal was to shed a light on the issue in the country of Greece; because, of the article I read about the arsonist attacks. I have enjoyed doing the research for my posts and would love to maintain it, but I know I will not have the time to do so over the summer. I also owe a huge thanks to all of you, who have taken the time to glance at this page, and an even bigger thanks to those of you who read my posts faithfully!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Religion in Greece reflected with Easter Celebrations

       Today is Good Friday and this Sunday, many will celebrate Easter here in the states with candy, big dinners, and possibly a trip to church beforehand. Also this week both here and in Israel, Jews celebrated Passover with Seder suppers, but in Greece it is all about the Orthodox Church’s version of Easter. I found this article interesting as it explained some of the events that go on in Greece this week.

     As Easter approaches, all of Greece prepares to party. The island of Paros, Greece in particular is host to large scale festivities. The Greeks partake in festivities that center around re-enacting the Passion of Christ, in which the events surrounding and including Jesus’ final days, death, and resurrection are acted out. This event doubles the usual population of Paros, and occupies the time of the residents. I find this interesting because, it is portrayed as an event that everyone participates in. However it excludes the Jews and anyone else who does not believe as the Greek Orthodox Church does. In a larger sense, I feel that perhaps the seemingly overbearing Orthodox Church is partially to blame for the exclusion and persecution  of outside groups like the Jews and Protestants within Greece.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Current events, both disheartening and uplifting.

      Sunday in Athens, Greece a bomb exploded killing a 15 year-old Afghan boy and injuring both his mother and sister. Since then, two groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks. This new group known as the “Revolutionary National Socialist Front" is one of several terrorist groups that are far-left, this particular group also supposedly promotes racism and targets people who are immigrants or have ties to political and financial issues. They even issued a threat of sorts, explaining their fear of becoming a minority in their own country, and saying meetings in mosques should no longer be considered safe. However, it has yet to be confirmed that they were responsible for the bombing, considering just a few hours earlier another guerrilla group had claimed responsibility. Either way, this story is just another indicator of the growing chaos and strife within Greece that is flanked by prejudices and racism that extend into the political, financial, and religious realms.

      On a more uplifting note in the city of Thessaloniki, a prayer meeting was held in light of the economic crisis. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, and coincidentally my interviewee Alex’s hometown. The unemployment rate in Greece is 10.2% and higher in the north, where Thessaloniki is. Paul Daramola, the Nigerian pastor of a largely Nigerian congregation at a Protestant church, said he felt God telling him to hold this meeting. News of the prayer meeting was distributed amongst people from all nationalities and denominations. The service was unique and complete with both an orchestra and a choir. The service also stands out as a beacon of hope, considering the Greek Orthodox Church is at odds with the government due to their plans to tax them for their numerous property holdings. This non-violent act of unity working to end the economic crisis stands out as a ray of hope in the midst of struggle throughout the country.

Interview with Greek Flagler College student Alexander Gianopulos

      I apologize for taking so long in between posts lately, but here is something a little different.  I interviewed Alexander Gianopulos, a Flagler College student, who has lived in both America and Greece.

      Alex’s relationship to Greece is a little different. He was born in the United States, moved to Greece when he was 7, and is now in the U.S. again for school. His initial impression of America was positive, he wrote, “I always thought America was a clean, organized, low priced country.” He viewed America as a good place to get a job and an education. With this intention he returned to the U.S. to get a college education. Unfortunately, he discovered there were various different social issues within the country. In particular, he recognizes the prevalent alcoholism, homelessness, and unemployment.

        As a Greek in America, he misses his homeland at times but is happy to be here. After he graduates he may go back to Greece or stay here, possibly moving to the west coast or Seattle. Both the culture and language have been hard for him to adjust to, and he would have missed out on many close friendships and experiences in Greece. The actual city he comes from is Thessaloniki, which is the second largest city, but most Americans do not know much about it. Instead, we hear more about the islands and the countries capital, Athens.

      Here Alex feels he stands only due to his height and facial hair, and there are things he wishes we understood about Greece. For starters, he says Greek food is very different from ours and our form of it. Also, he explains, “even though it is considered a religious Christian country, the majority of them have no clue about Christianity and Jesus Christ.” He also would love for his friends here to visit Greece. If someone wants to actually move there, they would have to be financially capable. Greeks who come to America, often times do not want to return because they are afraid they will not be able to get a job. In regards to the American financial situation, he feels the American dream is still possible but only if you have enough money to make it happen. However, he does not think materialism is a way to gain happiness.

      In comparison to Greece, Alex feels the issues in America are similar but they occur on a larger scale because the country is larger. As far as social issues go, he feels sex trafficking and substance abuse are the major issues. In regards to Anti-Semitism the topic my blog was addressing, he has not really seen it in Greece. He explained he believes it exists, but that it is not an issue because there are not that many Jews in his city. The city he is from Thessaloniki used to have a large Jewish population, but after World War II the population has greatly diminished.

      Alex personally has not seen any Anti-Semitism in Greece. He also loves the Jewish people; although, he does not agree with their religion. In terms of sex trafficking and substance abuse, the social issues he feels are most prevalent in Greece, he is affected by them in the sense that he wants to do something about them. He also thinks the issues in Greece do not directly influence Americans. However, he wrote that most likely Americans who have visited Athens have encountered drug addicts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Current news in Greece

     Recently, if you have heard Greece in the news it is most likely in connection to talk of their economic crisis. Due to recent collapses in the stock market and a debt crisis, Greece has come under fire from both its citizens and others around the world. This past week an austerity plan was introduced that features 30% cuts in civil servants holiday bonuses.

     Friday, riots in protest of this cut broke out. The protesters were spurned by Germany’s refusal to offer financial aid to Greece. These cuts to help repair the damage done by the budget deficit are also coupled with higher consumer taxes. While politicians debating the upcoming cuts, 7,000 protesters gathered at the Tomb of the Unknown solidier in Athens. There were also riots in Thessaloniki. The protesters clashed with riot police particularly in Athens where they had smashed windows, attacked military guards, and thrown missiles at the police. The police fought the crowds with tear gas, billy clubs, and physical force. The leader of the main workers’ union Yiannis Panagopoulos was injured in the protests and some of the politicians were also manhandled amidst the chaos. The article linked to above even compared images of the riots to those of battle scenes from Ancient Greece.
     Events like this effect all of Greece and are currently the most talked about issues internationally in reference to the country. As this YouTube poster with this clip from ABC news points out, these riots are merely a repetition of history.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some points of interests.

Here is just a quick update and some points of interest in the case of the arsonist attacks on the synagogue in Crete. The names of the men accused have yet to be released. The latest information from the Athens News agency reports that the men charged included 2 Britons, 1 Greek-American, 1 Greek, and 1 U.S. national, who has yet to be found. One of the individuals is still in custody, but the others have been released.

These news updates have been surrounded by articles about the prayer services held in protest of Anti-Semitic attacks and support of working to reconstruct the synagogue and Jewish culture in Greece. It is also important to note that these arsonist attacks weren’t the only recent incidents of Anti-Semitism. There have also been reported cases of defacing of Jewish graves.

I also found an interesting article on a Jewish blog about the incident. The author discussed how the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had to ask the Greek government to issue a statement condemn the synagogue fires as Anti-Semitic attacks. The ADL leader compares this event to the government’s response to the firebomb attack on the Greek Parliament and questions their immediate reaction to that event as compared to this delayed reaction. The ADL has been working to get the Greek government to recognize the issue of Anti-Semitism in Greece.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just for Fun

As a Hispanic and having Jewish roots in both of my parents' backgrounds I have most definitely inherited a passion for dancing. So tonight I thought I'd take a break from looking at the serious stuff about Greece and look at something more entertaining, Greek dancing and Jewish dancing. I find it very interesting if not ironic how similar the Greek and Jewish styles of dancing are at occaisions like weddings. Both the music and the actual style of dancing are incredibly similar. I think this is a result of both Greece and Israel's mediterranean culture. I would love to see a Greek Jewish wedding dance.

Here's the Jewish dancing

And this is the Greek dancing

Also I found this site which is quite fascinating; because, it gives the history of Jews in Greece complete with pictures and a slideshow!