“Fair representation” seems to be the most popular term pervading social, political and media spheres in Lebanon nowadays. For some reason, the term takes us back to the last days of Muammar Gaddafi when he established the so-called popular democracy, stamping out the right of his people to free democratic elections, claiming “representation is charlatanry”. His words hit the nail on the proverbial head, as this whole “fair representation” buzz is a lie. Read the rest of this entry »
“Why do good men leave us too soon?,” an 8-year old girl asked when she was told that “uncle Omar” had died. Omar George Salhab (1947-2012) bid us farewell as though he had departed to reunite with his professor and friend at the School of Architecture in the AUB, Assem Salam. Gone far too soon, the good always leave a void that nothing and no one can ever fill. Not an eminent politician, or a famed star (although he bore resemblance to Omar Sharif), Omar Salhab deserved being honored for his person, not his title. Unimpressed by the great riches and the glare of limelight, he opted for peace and quiet.
A self-made man from the 50s and 60s’ generation, the nobel Salhab labored hard and reached stellar heights by the sweat of his brow, but also clung dearly to his roots and hometown, Roumieh, and embraced its ashes, when death marched in and took him away.
He, who always held onto his calm, pious and polite temperament, gathered contradictions in his name “Omar George” , his two sons George and Tarek, and his sister Dorothy Kathmi, who navigated sects and countries and died at a young age, just like her brother who left a meritorious reputation marked by an elegant, yet modest lifestyle.
“I ought to be doing more…,” the friend who was forever just used to say. Some of us used to be bothered by Omar’s protocol, for we could not match the unparalleled consideration he used to show during the holidays, the sick days and all the joyous or sorrowful events. Moaning in front of friends was alien to him, as he used to check on them regularly even when bed-ridden and breathing his last breath.
The pious secularist, who wouldn’t miss any Sunday mass or a wine or Grappa gathering at the dinner table on week days, surrendered to no temptations; he didn’t return from the Gulf or London with an eye on a ministerial or a parliamentary seat. He was never after prestige, nor did he indulge in the notorious Lebanese extravagance. He kept it simple, playing cards with his friends and family at the village, far from the fuss of convoys and bodyguards. He was human par excellence. From Tripoli to Broumana High School, to Britain, to the AUB, to Saudi Arabia and London, he crossed all roads surrounding himself with dear companions and with the love of a wife who devoted her life with and for him, and a sister who echoed his name in every breath.
With his Jesus, he walked up the Hill of Calvary and lived the life of a man, in every sense that the word manhood bears. He was an exemplary figure for our youth to model after today and tomorrow.
The loving and courteous Omar bid us goodbye after having attracted all the opposites, especially in his friendships. He worked silently, gave silently, ached silently and left… silently.
Jawad N. Adra
When Smiles Are Swans
To Omar Salhab
When in midflight Thanatos shot you down
Smiles left the sky and swans refused to fly
And life’s verdures decayed to noble brown
And greening rains and balming tears went dry.
Fountain you were and unaware you flowed
As fountains do to all who come in thirst
Love mount you were whose white crest always glowed
Brightening nights with many a joyful burst.
Your ancestors, enlightenment and art
Vouchsafed you to our ephemeral times
A siren song that gladdens mind and heart
And tolls our bells with myriad mirthful chimes.
Like you, we’ll serve our turns and bravely die
But who will fill with smiles our swanless sky.
My acquaintance, which then formed into friendship with architect Assem Salam dates back to around 40 years. I was a member at the committee tasked with the development and expansion of Beirut Port, which was naturally presided by the Minister of Hydraulic and Electric Resources, as his title was back then. Assem Salam served as Vice-President of the committee, which also consisted of Dr. Khattar Chebli, architects Fayez Ahdab and Philippe Tawileh, and businessman Mounir Abou Haidar, all of who have passed away, leaving me to speak alone of the work and achievements of the committee. Read the rest of this entry »
Statement of the US State Department on November 14, 2012:
“We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians…There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel…We support Israel’s right to self-defense.”
However, when Shalit was detained by Hamas, the White House issued on June 24, 2011 the following statement:
“..As the anniversary of his capture approaches, the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms his continued detention, and joins other governments and international organizations around the world in calling on Hamas to release him immediately.”
It seems that Shalit’s case shook the world while the killing of Palestinians remains, paradoxically, a debatable matter.
Four-year-old Rana Arafah killed during an Israeli airstrike
When asked about the most prodigious phenomenon that has marveled the Lebanese since 1943, the Fairouz-Rahbani legacy is the first answer that would pop into one’s mind. Music in the Levant was fixated on Syrian hymns for many decades, before Ziryab came and established a unique and influential school of music in Al-Andalus in the 9th century. Much later, in the early 1920s, Aleppine and Iraqi Qudouds rose to popularity as an eminent musical genre. Sayyid Darwish, Abdul Wahhab and others also left their mark on the musical scene. However, the most sublime contribution offered to music in the Arab world was that of Assi Rahbani and Fairouz. Assi’s artistic works, songs and plays revived music in the Levant and gave it its most radiant luster, until his lyrics became part and parcel of our daily musical dictionary. If it weren’t for Fairouz, we and our children wouldn’t have had anything to listen to, except the exquisite lullabies that our grandmas used to sing us before bedtime, or the hit “Bous el-Wawa” and the like, which, our society is, sadly, mesmerized by. Read the rest of this entry »
Lebanon’s lawyers elect their syndicate representatives, smoking and littering papers about their seats and the floor. This is a glimpse into Lebanon’s civilized image.
We all remember the monotonous refrain of the Lebanese political discourse, which often praised our so-called unique multi-sectarian mosaic. The refrain kept on resonating in the air despite the civil war, which stripped the mosaic of its uniqueness, and the melody still lingers on.
Are we more advanced than India when it comes to what we have accustomed ourselves to calling “coexistence”? Are the five million registered Lebanese, add to them the legendary, or rather mythical, fifteen million Lebanese expatriates, greater than one billion two hundred million Indians? Are we home to several hundred languages and miraculously succeeded in communicating with only one or three? Have we pulled off the biggest democracy in the world despite the presence of over forty three thousand races, classes, affiliations, clans, and “ingredients”? Have we achieved greater milestones in art, technology and manufacturing? We certainly have, for we are Lebanese. “Tell them that you are Lebanese,” says Lebanese folk singer Assi Hellani in his most popular hit. Read the rest of this entry »
Information International has published in 2003 a booklet on coastal property, and below is a slightly amended introduction of it, as nothing has changed except for the worse.
Since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, the successive governments, especially that of the 1992, have tried to manage the remnants of war and to remove the infringements on public and private properties. Militia checkpoints and protection money disappeared, illegal ports were closed, customs resources were partly restored and a law stipulating the settlement of construction violations was ratified. However, the successive cabinets and parliaments have failed to approve a law that addresses the encroachments on public coastal property. The draft law suggested by the 1996 Hariri government on this issue hit snags in Parliament and the other attempt initiated in 1999 by Al-Hoss government was also to no avail. The budget sessions have always been abuzz with discussions on coastal infringements throughout the years and certainly the sessions of the current government are no different. Read the rest of this entry »
The Hrawi prize bestowed upon Speaker Nabih Berri has awakened the memory of the Lebanese to the glories of the Hrawi era. With a deep sigh of longing for the past and a firm awareness that the future will be bleaker, they all recalled together: “Those were the days!” Those were the days indeed, for as Speaker Berri put it, the troika was the pyramid that paved the way for the paradise we are savoring today. The late Ghazi Kenaan, may he rest in peace, lavished his countless blessings on all of us and particularly on the national, Arab and revolutionary parties, which had no other concerns but to kiss his hand and gossip about their enemies, friends and comrades equally. Nobody amassed wealth quickly in an indecent manner during the Hrawi era and nobody dared to violate the sanctity of human life. Emigration rate hit the bottom during that golden age with only 300 000 people (around 8% of the population) leaving the country for good. Around 200 000 individuals were “accidentally” naturalized. Public debt soared to roughly USD 16.5 billion and profits from currency and treasury bills rigging skyrocketed to USD 30 billion. Those Lebanese leaders who screamed “Syria out” were in fact indebted to Ghazi Kenaan and his successor Rustom Ghazali but ironically rewarded them with accusations of treachery. Read the rest of this entry »