When Muslims are seen as a threat and large sections of Syria, Iraq and Yemen lay in ruins, I treasure the symbolism of this photo I took during my years teaching in Bahrain: the towers of a mosque adjoining a Christian church.
The Middle East is the historic home of three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, related, but different, all followers of the one God. Over the last sixty years, events have stressed that tolerance, but these places of worship remain.
After the attacks on 9/11, when I became more aware of how little many Americans knew of this region, I wrote Crowded with Voices: Thirteen Years in the Middle East. I hoped to share my experiences and insights with readers who will never set foot in the area. Citizens of a super power that regularly affects this region for good or harm bear a responsibility to understand and to support wise actions.
I transferred to Germany in 1989, just before the first Gulf War, but returned to visit friends in 2006. In 2009, I extended my visit, traveling—by car—through Iran with two friends.
Events have shaken the area since I left my home there. Bahrain and its neighbors have dealt with the second Gulf War, the rise of Al Qaeda, the Iraq War, the Arab Spring and the spread of ISIS. Hundreds of thousands across the Middle East have died and even more have been displaced. The future is uncertain.
I lived there during a more peaceful time, although tranquility—in Bahrain especially—was rudely destroyed by the Khomeini Revolution in Iran. Those events in 1979 shook our school community as the Defense Department evacuated dependents of our teachers. Those changes in Iran continue to roil the region and challenge our foreign policy.
When I received the call offering me a job in Bahrain, I did not know where that was. The person who called from Washington told me it was in the Middle East. I had to look on a map to find where I would be going. My history classes—high school and college—concentrated on this country and Europe. Since so much news has focused on the area, I hope Americans now are more aware. However, an article describing the latest violence is a very inadequate introduction to the lives of the people whose ancestors have lived there for centuries.
My interests are not limited to the Persian Gulf area. I was teaching in Germany when the Berlin wall came down, and when East and West Germany came together. During my years in Germany, I traveled extensively through neighboring countries. These blogs will cover a lot of territory. I hope you will enjoy the trip.