Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Promise is a Promise

Originally posted at thejewsoflebanon.org on December 21, 2007 @ 2:35 am ·
Filed under
Projects

Introduction by Site Administrator: On November 25, pictures were posted of a Jewish cemetery in the historic port city of Sidon, located in southern Lebanon. We receive hundreds of daily visitors to the site, but it was not a coincidence that Isaac Levy, a Lebanese living abroad, would see the tomb of his father for the first time in 22 years… on the screen of a computer monitor.


We launched this project not through calculation but through conviction, a dialogue over the blog was carried out, and the innocent wishes of Isaac were realized- Fadi (original photographer) once again visited the site and placed flowers on Isaac’s father’s tomb, reciting a prayer, and once again exemplifying the Lebanon we believe in; Lebanon the message of religious tolerance and coexistence. Was it that both of these men shared stories of their fathers, whose bodies are buried in the bosom of the earth in distant lands that brought them together? This bittersweet and emotional story was carried out between two men who never even met each other, who know no more than the first name and email address of the other, to an audience of like-minded people from across the globe who abide to an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole.
The original pictures and the corresponding dialogue where this was discovered:
Please Click Here


Now, we present to you the new photographs where Isaac’s father was honored, where Fadi showcases the beauty which is the essence of man. Fadi’s accompanying letter to Isaac and the world:


A promise is a promise. It’s a joyous season, the holidays of the 3 monotheistic religions of our country fall in a 21 day period. Hanukkah, Adha, and Christmas. On the second day of Eid, I packed the camera, and paid a second visit to the very windy and wet Cemetery to recite the Fatiha for Isaac’s dad – in lieu of my own father.


I made it, no climbing this time. The stormy weather was the perfect chance to get closer to the collapsing western side of the cemetery. Better still, I could drive the car right to the front entrance of the cemetery this time.


The tombs of Isaac’s family are not difficult to spot, but the name engravings are not there. I recited three Fatihas, took the photos, and felt a warm sense of satisfaction. Perhaps far away, in the western coast of Africa, my dad would rest in peace, and just maybe, someone would pass by one day and recite a prayer so he may rest in peace.

Peace, such a word we miss. Internal peace, such an emotion we lack. We have so much in common, the same air we breathe, the same soil the holds us together eventually. Good and love are indivisible, and there is plenty of them to keep everyone content. Why can’t we realize that? One day I came over a very interesting verse from the Quran – a very “non-denominational” verse! A verse that gave me, least of all, the answer I sought.


Say We believe in God and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. [Quran - 002.136]


If it is religion that separates us, then it is the wrong religion. If it is politics that bring us apart, then it is the wrong politics. If it is anything else, let us reach out and hold each other closer.
In this small beautiful mad country that we call home, we have 18 different denominations; the last and only country in this region to maintain plurality, but at a very hefty price. In this season of celebration of the many faiths, we should be keen to first, realize that we have so much in common, faith wise, country wise, life wise. We have so much to lose if we are off-guard for one second. In this season of holiness, we should realize that Forgiveness is the true path to inner peace. In this season of holiness, when the whole world is turning mad with feuds, with hatred, with wars, with walls and landmines, with religious (sic) segregations, separatism, we are truly blessed, but most of us do not realize it. Some of us who already do have a huge mission.
On the drive back home, I realized that Gibran Tueini (Slain Lebanese journalist, his original oath,
click here) in his oath missed an integral part of our society, a wandering lost part of Lebanon - Lebanese Jews! So I took the liberty to rephrase it:


We pledge by God, Muslims, Christians and Jews, to stay united, forever and ever, to defend our great Lebanon, Long Live You! Long live Lebanon!


A belated Happy Hanukkah, Happy Adha, Happy Christmas!


It is a pledge a few of us, soon to grow in number, to preserve our plurality, and to be the defenders of our brothers’ and sisters’ memories and places until their return.



Sidon’s Jewish Cemetary

Sidon's Jewish Cemetary

Originally posted on thejewsoflebanon.org on November 25, 2007 @ 9:26 pm ·

Filed under Projects

A few kilometers south of An-Nijmeh Square/Place d'├ętoile , Downtown Sidon, lies the Jewish cemetery, on a small hill supposedly overlooking the ever blue Mediterranean. On the western side, the cemetery is in very bad shape, the hill is sinking, and some of the graves have actually tilted.
Unfortunately, the cemetery is right next to the biggest dump in south Lebanon. A 100-feet high mountain of garbage on the southern coast of Sidon - by all means an environmental catastrophe. The Sidon Municipality has had enough pressure and scandals from the media I presume, so they have guards there preventing anyone from taking photos. They stopped me from taking the photos of the tilting side of the cemetery, or from entering it from that side. I tried to explain I was after the cemetery and had no interest in the dump, to no avail.


Eventually, I had to sneak from the other side of the cemetery, and climb the dusty hill, in broad daylight, which seems the best time to sneak anywhere without raising suspicion! There is no "entrance" per se for the cemetery. I recall there used to be a sign with Hebrew letters marking the cemetery, but that was removed. I think this is some sort of "hiding" the place to protect it from vandals.

Many of the inscriptions that only have Hebrew letters are broken, but those that have Arabic writing and Hebrew letters are left intact! I believe that there is more than a coincidence to this. I got to know that last year the place was cleaned by the municipality, the weeds, trees, etc, seem reasonably within control for a deserted graveyard.

I will try to go in without a very obvious camera next time, or use my cell-phone camera. I am not sure what can be done to preserve that cemetery, but my heart broke to think that these were someone's parents or grandparents, lying there; they died in their country, certain that they will rest in peace forever in their homeland. Look what happened! Nobody, dead or alive, should be desecrated or forgotten in their own country.

I was not sure what to say when I walked there, so I prayed in Arabic, a verse from the Qu'ran that the angels repeat to the souls in Heaven: Salamon Kawlin min Rabb Rahim – "Peace! A word from the Merciful God". Our God, their God, everyone's God. Peace!

A Dusty Comeback

A Dusty Comeback

Yes, it’s true I have not been blogging for over a year, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been kept quiet at all. Blogging in times of war is easy, and since everyone seems to be foretelling another war between “Israel” – (so called), and Hezbollah (henceforth HA) – I thought I might as well get a head start, and a include a brief update of what I have been doing from time to time.

Well, one day the dialogue with Ephraim will become a book, to explain how two minds on opposite sides of the border, and who call each other enemies, thought and attempted a dialogue. Needless to say, it failed, and I don’t have his email, otherwise we could have been email pals exchanging historic facts when we were not “enemies.” No hurry there, when it’s time to fight, HA will get to it, but until then, there is no reason why I cannot behave like a civilized non-violent person.

On the other hand, as if God was testing my, I stumbled upon an article in a Lebanese Daily on a certain website by Lebanese Jews. Turns out the website was constructed by “Aaron” – aka Haron- a Lebanese Muslim Expat from southern Lebanon - about Lebanese Jews. Religious affiliation is not the intention here, it is the concept I’m trying to relay, got it? I became a fan of the site. http://www.thejewsoflebanon.org/

I live in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon – and I decided I should do my part in relaying and documenting the heritage of the Jewish Lebanese compatriots, and exercise to myself more than anyone else that religion – or lack of it , ethnicity, is not what brings me and “Ephraim” apart, it is political conviction: He is a Zionist, I am not, he is racist, I am not, he is bloodthirsty and a war monger, and I am not. So, until he resolves his differences, I decided I should celeberate mine! I should make peace with yet another part of my Lebanese Identity, the wandering Jewish community that had to leave Lebanon during the 1975-1990 war. The house with many mansions that is Lebanon would serve as a model for humankind, differences should be what brings us together.

For more information on the history and heritage of the Lebanese Jewish community, please visit this page http://www.thejewsoflebanon.org/

For avoidance of any doubt, I just wish to clarify that I am involved in this beautiful project out of love and respect for our country, and our Jewish compatriots, the least we can do to preserve our country’s true spirit and identity. By compatriots I mean the Lebanese Jews who were forced into Diaspora. These are our brothers and sisters, and our society owes them an apology (God knows our society owes an apology to all of us). The minute they wish to return home, they will certainly NOT be coming back as tourists. The second objective is, I need to break the taboo inside me, and to finally put into action what I have been brought up to believe, our fight is not with the Jews, it is with the Zionists. Thirdly, to excercise my refounded conviction that peace is the best way to win a war.

How did it start, hmmm...? Yes, I snuck into the Jewish Cemetery in Sidon. It got a bit more complicated. I wrote an article and posted it and then I got a comment that Isaac recognized the grave of his father...

I intentionally want to repost the story in sequence on my blog; the intention is to shed more light on the fight for the plurality of Lebanon. We Lebanese do not forget our brothers and sisters, we might from time to time suffer a relapse, but what ties us together is blood and heritage, blood in our veins, not spilled blood on the streets.

Our country has been harsh on us, it has pushed us away, every morning it puts us to trial, but it is love that keeps us going, who can NOT love this place?