The Rose and Alex Pilibos campus has been transformed. A sneak peek into history, the feeling of being immersed into a traditional Armenian village is created. A beautifully painted monument of Mousa Ler, traditional Armenian Dhols, and other artifacts are displayed under the library of the school. It is an elaborate show of our Armenian culture and heritage, one that has been preserved over time for generations to appreciate and comprehend its significance for Armenians as a people.
An intricate table arrangement adorned with a cauldron of Harissa, a pot of melted butter, and seasonings atop a traditional Armenian tablecloth are the backdrop to the daylong celebration of the Victory of Mousa Ler. Students are lined up, eager to enjoy this delicacy. Upon tasting, a rush of flavors fill their taste buds. One can savor the creamy wheat and chicken blend, giving a sense of warmth and unity with their culture. The Harissa is delicious, and even the pickiest eater seems to adore it. However, what is the significance and connection Harissa has to Mousa Ler?
During the mass deportation and genocide of 1915, the people of Mousa Ler fought heroically to escape Turkish attack and warded off further attacks for 53 days. This resistance that inspired the book and movie “Forty Days of Mousa Dagh”, was an organized trek up the mountain of Mousa Ler. During the almost two-month span of time on the mountain until their rescue, the people used what resources they had to survive. The traditional Armenian food of Harissa was an essential part of that survival and became a symbol of tradition, strength, and survival.
To keep this tradition alive, every year during the third Sunday of September, the approximate anniversary of the rescue of the people of Musa Dagh, Armenians gather to celebrate and commemorate this victory. Celebrations include beautiful dances, singing of cultural songs, and of course the cooking of their most famous and significant dish Harissa. Harissa takes time, patience, and love to prepare it just right. Patience and love are far too familiar attributes to Armenians. It is with patience and love that our culture, heritage, and traditions have survived for many years and will continue to thrive for centuries to come.