Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 15th, 2008

Beit-Chabab: Hometown of my parents and grand parents and mine….

The late Lebanese writer Youssef (Joseph) Habshi Ashkar did an excellent job describing my village Beit-Chabab, which is his village.

Youssef told stories of the numerous ancient people and traditions in a simple, heart wrenching language and these stories were very funny most of the time. My father loves these stories because many of them happened during his time in the village and he can figure out the real protagonists. It would be nice to have all the works of Youssef translated, even if it would lose much of its original flavor and meanings.

When you see Beit-Chabab coming from Beirut you notice that it is vast and opening her arms to hold all its original main four quarters. Every house is visible with its red tiled roof, distinct, and having a sight to the sea.

The government encouraged new buildings to have red tile roofs for tax deduction but it turned mainly a paper promise because dad didn’t get any benefit. Beit-Chabab is a far cry of those villages scattered along a main road or hidden behind a mount or a valley.

Beit-Chabab is 700 meters above sea level and climbs over 100 meters in altitude from its bottom, west to east, and it is expanding mostly southward because the north side plunges toward the Nahr El Kalb River valley (Dog River).

Beit-Chabab has mainly 10 family clans that gathered around specific districts; each clan who could afford it had its own “nawbeh“, sort of a club of youthful members who could play instrument, sing and dance the ancient ways during happy and sad ceremonies.

Almost each major church, belonging to a clan, has a club of ladies “akhawiyeh” that cares for the less fortunate members of the clan. There was a time when a single policeman designated by the mayor would suffice to keep the peace and the streets clean.  Beit-Chabab grew bigger and clans permitted a few members of other family clans to purchase pieces of land in their own district, but out of town people still have hard time purchasing land.

Beit-Chabab could have been an ideal tourist attraction or a destination for summer residents but it blocked this kind of business by not allowing rental apartments or building commercial hotels and restaurants or movie theaters and thus discouraging outsiders to settle in.

Beit-Chabab used to be the main large town for miles around and it was called “The Town”.  It cultivated varieties of fruits and vegetables and hosted all kinds of industries like clothes “dima“, silk factories, church bells, potteries, fowl and cow businesses and supplied Lebanon with its products and produces and even exported to France until artificial silk was invented and other alternatives to potteries and cheaper clothing were manufactured.

Most of Beit-Chabab’s current  14,000 inhabitants immigrated abroad during and after WWI to Africa and returned to rehabilitate their houses; the immigration is still going stronger with the new generation after our latest civil war and the incapacity of our political system to bring peace, security and work opportunities.

The new wave of immigration has diversified its destinations to the USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, South America and also Africa for the less educated.   The worst part is that the new educated generation is not ready to come back, simply because the old ways of visiting and caring for neighbors are dying and Beit-Chabab is far behind with the amenities of modern life.

Youssef described his dad as a true ancient personality.  His dad didn’t wear “al ghenbaz” (the traditional long tunic) since he wore European attire, and he didn’t cultivated his land since he commuted and worked in Beirut but he was an anciant. But Youssef lived the  ancients did.

Youssef’s dad is ancient because as soon as he arrived from the Capital Beirut he would change into comfortable clothes and walk to the valley where he had a grotto which was supplied with the implements of a water pipe “arghileh” and coffee and candles. He would spend the evening contemplating nature and returning with loads of wild fruits and vegetables and greens like “3erkbanieh”, “zbeizbeh”, sumac, “za3tar”, “zaizafoun”, “kouwissa”, “khatmieh” and an oak stick to supply the winter reserve for fireplace, not because his house is not centrally heated which is but because he loves to see and feel the winter fire.

Youssef’s father is ancient because he eats meat only on Sundays and eats it raw like “kebeh” and “smayskeh“, because he loves to hear the pounding of the “mdakah bil jorn“.

Youssef’s father used to do his own coal and his own “arak” and he raised his own chickens and had always one goat for the milk and one mouton for the winter meat and fat.  Youssef’s dad is ancient because he refused to pour concrete on his patio “mastabah” but would pass “al mahdalah” on the sand, mud, small stones and “kash”.

Youssef’s dad is an ancient individual because he kept the traditional ways for preserving food, oil, cheese and other condiments simply because it reminded him of the environment and climate in which his forefathers lived contented.

Youssef’s father lived the real life without discontinuity when his grandfather died and when his father died.  He loved to narrate the ancient stories of people and stories of imaginary ancient heroes while sitting on the sofa and drinking Turkish coffee without sugar “sada”.  His stories reflect the concepts that hell could be experienced on earth and the feeling of heaven is an earthly experience too.

I do currently live in Kunetra, a mile away from our original town called Beit-Chabab.

Kunetra is split among four municipalities of Beit-Chabab, Kornet Hamra, Kornet Chehwan, and Ain-Aar.  Our building is within the municipality of Kornet Chehwan that Dad finished constructing in 1970 .

Kunetra was relatively a virgin estate; it is now expanding and becoming a favorite Real Estate development with modern villas studded all over.

Beit-Chabab is the hometown of my parents and their parents.  I was an interned student for six years in its boys’ school affiliated to the Christian Maronite Order.  From 1963 to 1975, I spent the summers in Beit-Chabab until I graduated from university

I am reverting to the ancient ways of life: I garden and gather all kinds of vegetables and greens; I love to eat everything natural without addition of salt, sugar, or peppers; my mother still prepares all kinds of preserves of jam and “kabeess”.

Unfortunately, I am not a narrator of stories and cannot sing and have no intimate friends to share the bliss of ancient living.

Hot spots: border pretexts (December 15, 2008)

 

                        There are many hot spots around the world where borders delimitations are not negotiated.  The hottest spots are located on the northern borders with India such as China, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh; then you have the Middle East and then Africa. Thousands of frontiers are imaginary lines drawn in deserts (in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere) by the colonial powers of the last century and these colonial powers expect the newly created under-developed States to monitor thousands of imaginary lines. Almost all wars had frontiers as excuses when in fact the causes were basically cultural myths and expansionist policies.  France and Britain are responsible for drawing 40% of world frontiers.  If we add the other European colonial powers of Italy in the 20th century for the borders in Libya, Ethiopia and Somalia, and the colonial powers of Portugal and Spain in the 17th century in Latin America then we realize that Europe was the main culprit for all the current border strife around the world.                        

                        Before I develop further let me propose the following general criteria for the Trade Zones along common borders between States, regardless of how the superpowers view frontiers from a political, economic, cultural, or strategic perspectives for domination.

  

First, the width of the band to be proportional to the land mass of the States. 

Second, the budget allocated by States to the administration of the zone to be proportional to the GNP of the respective States. 

Third, the number of members in the administrative council to be constituted of equal memberships. 

Fourth, The number of citizens enjoying special status in the zone to be of equal numbers. 

Fifth, the proceeds of the raw materials discovered in the zone to be split equally. 

Sixth, the states proceeds on taxes or other forms of State returns to be divided proportionally to the budget allocated by each State.

 

                        I have discussed the hot spots in the Middle East in my article “Trade-Zones in the Middle East” and suggested the most plausible areas that would reduce greatly border tensions. Since my previous article on frontiers didn’t generate any readers then it is legitimate that I recopy part of it.  The World is divided by 250,000 kms of frontiers.  Since 1991, more than 26,000 kms of new international frontiers have been instituted; a total of 42,000 kms have been delimited by makeshift barriers, electronic fences and the like. 

  There are oil rich States that invested billions of dollars to set fictive barriers on the sand; for example, Kuwait had spent $30 billion for 217 kms barriers over sand with Iraq.   Saudi Arabia spent over $100 billions on barriers over sand to delimit frontiers with Iraq.  We were all wondering what these oil rich states are doing with their treasures.

                        The stupidest barrier (over 8 meter high and 800 km long) ever erected is built by the State of Israel to separate the Jews from the Palestinians. The Ashkenazi Jews (Jews who immigrated from Central and Eastern Europe) are the ones who came with the idea during Sharon tenure.  For centuries, the Ashkenazi Jews lived in ghettos in Europe and their psychic feels comfortable in a ghetto setting; they don’t care for open horizons or open skies; they need claustrophobic enclosures.   I ask the Sephardic Jews (Jews who emigrated from the Middle East and North African States to the State of Israel) to tear down that wall of shame; I tell them “you are not from the same breed or same culture of the warp minded Ashkenazi”.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

December 2008
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