Cultural Salvage: My Afternoon at the Diarna Situation Room
Published on Herald PR
No culture ever vanishes completely… vestiges can be found if one looks hard enough. Recently, however, the Islamic State and a plethora of other terrorist organizations in the Middle East have been on a rampage of destroying culture they deem unfit for or contrary to their mission. I was in the hospital last year when ISIS dynamited the ancient temple complex at Palmyra. Needless so say, it did not help to expedite my recovery.
A culture vastly overlooked by many historians and academics alike is the rich Jewish culture that used to flourish throughout cities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans. Only seventy years ago, there were still thriving Jewish communities in cities across the Muslim world. Some were very shaken, like in Baghdad, some on the precipice of collapse, like Damascus, and some would soon be completely abandoned, like in Alexandria. Instead of abandonment, there’s a new problem facing Jewish heritage sites in the Middle East: the merciless destruction of Jewish culture by terrorist organizations.
An organization that wishes to combat this merciless destruction of culture is the Diarna Geo-Museum, co-founded by Jason Guberman-Pfeffer. Diarna staffs a “situation room” in cooperation with the American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History. Put simply by Jason, the Diarna team is working to win the “race against time,” trying to ensure that priceless examples of Sephardi Jewish culture aren’t erased permanently from the face of the earth.