Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 30th, 2008

Something on my university period in Lebanon, (continue 15)


I had thus to enroll in PC (physics and chemistry) at a preparatory French university and could not join any formal university for engineering. My life of failure started big time in education, and my self-esteem was bruised badly, but I persisted and managed years later, out of sheer stubbornness, to grabbing a PhD in industrial engineering at the University of Oklahoma at Norman in 1991.


From 1970 to 1975, I didn’t focus on studying and loafed around, participating in political demonstrations and sit in and student elections: it was the most effervescent and active period in the drive to effect drastic changes in the social and political structures in Lebanon. 


Backed by a dynamic force of the Palestinian factions, firmly established in Beirut and the south, the Lebanese leftist movements surged ahead and defied the status quo, a reality that scared the hell out of the political and religious elite.  The elite classes of feudal, financial, and religious sect-caste decided to burn Lebanon by a civil war, instead of agreeing to reforms that would impinge on their interests.


I spent much time boarding buses to burial ceremonies of martyrs and getting all confused when the Party split; two factions claimed variations in philosophical positions that I had no idea what was the angle.  The split was basically meant to convey the extent of political affiliations to the Baath regime in Syria.  For example, should the Party be a mousepiece to Syria or ally to the Palestinian factions? This confusion carried out with strong-arm tactics affected deeply all those naïve and well-meaning comrades who invested so much time and effort to grow and be accepted within an organized body.


All alone in Beirut


I roamed Beirut alone, all alone, attending theaters and movies.  For all my convictions I was just an added number or a fill in because of my lack of rhetorical or conversational abilities and my endemic shyness. With all the new comrades and university acquaintances I could not find the courage to befriend even one companion to roam Beirut with me. 


From morning to late evening, I kept moving from one location and one street to another, mostly walking since Beirut is not that vast for a young body, and because the important theaters and gatherings were located around the Hamra Street area or Ras Beirut in general.  The fares for buses, taxis, theater, and food were cheap and inflation was nonexistent then; the dollar was worth less than two Lebanese pounds because the Palestinian movements invested and poured in large sums in the economy.


After failing many courses and repeating them I finally graduated with a master’s in Physics from the University of Lebanon in Choweifat. The next chapter would resume my grueling higher educational experience in the USA.


I recall, while in my second university year, my cousin Nassif Ghoussoub lived with us while he was studying for his final secondary class or “matheleme” year.  Nassif was extremely studious in studying “deb shoghl” and used to spent most of the night in his tiny room solving all kinds of math and physics problems, all the exercises and problems, no exceptions.  Nassif ended up ranking second among all the Lebanese students that year and was first in his promotion in the university and received a grant for higher education to Paris.


I failed my second year at the preparatory university and transferred to the Lebanese University in Chouwefat majoring in Physics.  My dad used to go to the university to check on the results of my exams and he was disappointed many times. I graduated with difficulty in May 1975 with Nassif who majored in math; thus Nassif overtook me by two years.

My shyness maybe due to lack of practice in conversation and my silence among gathering lasted for a long time.  I still feel a huge fright standing in a gathering or a lecture and asking a question, even though I have lately taught classes at universities.

I am always questioning the validity of my queries and how stupid I would sound: I guess I lacked rhetorical classes and verbal abilities to expressing myself. That is why I prefer to express in writing and sending written questions when feasible.

Right now, my shyness in asking questions might be due to large knowledge base and my traditional humility for not showing off as an erudite.

The period of 1970 to 1975 was the most glorious period for university students in Lebanon, and I failed to taking all the opportunities and advantages that were available to enterprising souls.  I refused to demand a weekly stipend, though my family could afford it, and I might have rented an apartment and cultivated a higher sense of entitlement and liberty…

Who are we, the inhabitants of the Mediterranean Sea shores? (Part 1; March 1, 2008)

I have this theory, backed by historical accounts and substantiated by archaeological and ontological finding, that the Near East region (Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) has been the crossroad for the innumerable waves of immigration from East to West and to a lesser extent from Eastern Africa via Egypt to the west.  This is a valid hypothesis that could be adopted as an alternative direction and guide to studying our people.

I take the first premise that most locations had their own indigenous people for various reasons going far back to thousands of years; this premise is only just, logical and convenient.  

The second premise is that emigrants prefer moving toward areas with abundance of water and greener pastures. The successive waves of immigration have started in full bloom before the seventh millennial of our calendar.

People from Central Asia tended to march towards Northern Iran and then onward to the Anatolian plateau (Turkey), rich in rivers and water reserves from the melting of snow-covered majestic Taurus mountain chains. The populations in Iran were inclined to settle the shores of the great Tigris River (Dujlah) in Iraq.

From there, they forked either south along the mighty river Tigris or northward.  Moving south was initially the preferred route because the climate is warmer and because it is almost impossible to navigate upward the Tigris River in its northern section.  They settled and built the ancient and mighty Empires around Ur and Basra on the mouth of the Tigris River which empties in the Arab/Persia Gulf and then they expanded along the Arabian Gulf shores.

The Empires of the Antiquity (Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon) constituted the trading centers from the Arabian Gulf to the coasts of the Western Indian Ocean.  The Prophet Abraham is said to have moved out with his tribe from the great city of Ur and most probably progressed south-west along the Red Sea coast. (Actually, the Jewish tribes are initially from Yemen, where most of their idols such as Hud still exist).  Later, the mighty Empire of Babylon based its Capital further north of Ur on the Tigris River.

Aramaic was the main mother language with various dialects for each region because Iraq was the hotbed of civilization for over 4 millennial before Christ, starting by the kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, and Ashur. All the regions from Iran, Kurdistan, the Arabic Peninsula, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and the western part of Turkey were under the hegemony of either one of these empires. 

The main religion and Gods, the main language, and the tradition for trading and doing business and administrations were homogeneous.

Moving north the Tigris River the hardy immigrants settled and built mighty Empires like Assyria in Nineveh (Ninawa) around Mosul and in the current Kurdish homeland. Those immigrants who moved north the river overflowed to the Anatolian Plateaus in Turkey and settled along the mighty Euphrates River (Al Furat) and built the Hittite Empire that discovered iron and invaded Egypt, where they were called the Hyksos, and settled there for a long time until they signed a peace treaty with Ramses II.

It is known that prosperous Troy was vanquished by the Greeks, after ten years of siege, because the Hittite Empire was endeavoring at that junction to reach the sea and thus, aided the Greek invaders to destroy their natural enemy.  The more recent power coming from the Anatolian plateau that conquered the Middle East is the Ottoman Empire.

The waves of immigration descended along the Euphrates River and jointed the Orontes River (Al Assy) and built many cities along these rivers and many reached the Mediterranean Sea. It is known that the Orontes and Euphrates shores were studded with numerous large and prosperous City-States like Homs, Hama, Tel Amarna, Van, and Mary because it was the preferred land trade route towards Iraq, Persia and ultimately China.

The alternative more direct route was through the Syrian Desert passing by Palmyra (Tadmor) but it was way too harsh and inconvenient.  Actually, almost all invasions coming from further East and North used the coastal and Euphrates River corridors to loot and conquer Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and ultimately Egypt. All these immigrants might have initially fled from persecutions and tribal warfare and also because of changing weather conditions and droughts.

The waves coming from Eastern Africa settled first in Egypt and fled for many reasons to the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea toward the Maghreb regions and also to the eastern shores and settled in the sea cities of Canaan that includes Palestine, and Lebanon.   A large number had to emigrate very often from the cities of Canaan after repeated invasions of the Moguls, Persian, Iraqi, and Egyptian Empires:  These Empires made it a routine to invade and loot the rich Canaan City-States for their accumulated treasures and for their skilled workers. 

All these immigrants ended up in Syria and the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea of Canaan and some settled in Egypt. The ancient city of Byblos in Lebanon extended its civilization and built the cities of Sidon and Beirut and other sea towns and invented a new alphabet of 22 letters.  Sidon built Tyr and Akka.  As the Empires in Iraq, Persia, and Egypt invaded these cities the settled inhabitants of these prosperous seashore cities had to immigrate again to the southern and western shores of the Mediterranean Sea

Note:  I read recently that a newly excavated City-State by the current city of Rukka (Northern Syria) is as old as 5,500 BC; many millennial before the City-States in southern Iraq.  The society was very structured and copper was imported from Southern Turkey.  A vast temple was excavated in southern Turkey that is 11,000 years BC. 

Trailing a butterfly by Mahmoud Darwish (Part 2, December 30, 2008)

Extracts of poems


            What…Why all that?

He is walking alone, having a short discussion with himself.  He is uttering words that are not meant to mean anything “What… Why is all that?” He does not mean to complain or even to inquire; the nonsense sentence is not meant to starting a tempo that could aid for a youthful walk. As he repeats “What…Why all that” he feels that he is in company.  The passerby does not believe that he is a lunatic; he is probably a poet receiving revelations from Satan.  He didn’t know why he recalled Genghis Khan; maybe he saw a white horse without a saddle, flying over a destroyed building in the valley.  An old man was pissing by an eucalyptus tree; the ascending young girls from the valley laughed at him and threw pistachios at him.


            Two strangers

He looks up and sees a shining star.  He looks down and sees his grave in the valley. He looks at a beautiful woman who does not notice him.  He looks in the mirror and a stranger looking like him is reflected to him


            We arrived late

There is a precarious stage we label “maturity”; we are neither optimist nor pessimist. We are past passion, longing, and recalling the opposite names of things.  We are too confused between forms and contents. We acquired the habit of pondering before speaking.  We adopted the style of physicians inspecting a wound.  We try to remember the past and wonder “How many mistakes have we committed? Have we reached wisdom a tad late?”  We are not sure from where the wind is blowing; what is the benefit if someone is still waiting for us by the foot of the mountain to share a prayer for our safe journey?  We are neither optimist nor pessimist; just a tad late.


            We wish the lad was a tree

An ancient poet said “I wished the lad was a rock”.  It would have been more appropriate if he wished the lad to be a tree.  A big tree cares for the smaller one; it prolongs its shadow and sends a bird, now and then, to keep company.  No tree violates its neighboring tree, and never mocks it if it does not bear fruit.  When a tree is transformed into a boat it learns to swim; when shaped in a door it keeps the secrets, when a desk it teaches the poet never to become a logger.  A tree stands respectful to passersby; it bends lightly with majesty to the winds.  I wish the lad was a tree.


            The talent of hope

Whenever he thought of hope he felt tired and bored. He invented a tricky illusion and said “Now, how can I measure a mirage?”  He rummaged through his documents and dusty files of who he was before his invention.  He could not find any copy where he might have noted down, events of fast beating heart and carelessness. He could not find a trace of standing in the rain for no reason.  Each time he thinks of hope the distance widens between a heavy body and a heart inflicted with wisdom.  He opened a window and saw two cats playing with a puppy dog.  He said: “hope is not the opposite of abjectness; maybe it is faith in a God who is careless; a God who let us rely on our individual talents to pierce through the cloud.” He said : “Hope is neither matter nor a concept. It is a talent”.  He swallowed a pill for blood pressure; he forgot to query Hope…he felt some kind of happiness of unknown source.

“It is not a pleasure being around you” (A short story, December 30, 2008)


Note: This is a fictitious very short story. Probably a version occurred. If it didn’t happen yet, it might after Gaza genocide

Harun (Aaron) was an Egyptian Jew who was whisked out from Alexandria to the State of Israel in a clandestine Zionist group. Three months ago, Ben Gurion, Israel PM, had ordered the Mossad to wage a campaign of assassination of a few Jews residing in Egypt, to blow a couple of Synagogues in Alexandria, and blast a couple of British and USA institutions in Egypt.  This campaign was meant to frighten the Jews into leaving Egypt and to pressure the USA from extending financial aids to Gamal Abdel Nasser for building the Asswan dam..

Sara was a Polish Jew who immigrated in 1947 to Palestine to flee poverty and deprivation.  She was indoctrinated into the Zionist movement and participated in active duty. Sara was a member of Zionist terror groups that massacred civilian Palestinians in towns close to Haifa and forced the Palestinians to vacate their villages after Israel was voted in a State in the UN in 1948 by a single vote majority.

Aaron met Sara who was pregnant after an affair with a Zionist officer who died during a battle in 1948.  They got married.  When the pregnancy of Sara was in her eight month, Aaron was ordered for duty.  Aaron was reluctant of leaving Sara at this stage, but Sara reprimanded him and urged him never again to fail Eretz Israel purposes

It was a crucial period; one Zionist political group wanted to resolve the problem with the Palestinians according to the UN resolution #194 of returning the conquered land during the independence days of 1948 and accepting a Palestinian State.  The other “hawkish” zealot Zionists of Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, and Sharon wanted to expand even further.

In order to corner and placate the moderate Zionists into a “fait accompli” the Zionist zealots invaded the town of Qibiya in October 1953 and massacred 42 Palestinian civilians and blew 41 houses.  The village of Qibiya was in Jordan but Israel wanted revenge because, 4 years earlie,r Qibiya had resisted Israel terrorists’ infiltration during the “independence period”. 

Aaron was within a support group but he witnessed the massacre and participated in dumping the bodies in a common grave hole.

            Aaron begged Sara to leave Israel and start an honest life; Sara had but contempt and demanded that Aaron leave since she is staying for the duration.  Aaron had to remain with Sara.  Seventeen years later, two Palestinian feddayins infiltrated a colony outpost and kidnapped a Jewish family in their home.


Kassem nodded and looked at the cadet redheaded kid.  Youssef gently pushed the girl in front of her parents and slid her throat in a quick talented motion.  Sara opened her mouth for her first uncontrollable surprise; her rigid eyes wavered in disbelief.  Aaron fainted.

An entire minuteof the loudest of silence floated in the room.  In the meantime, Youssef carted the body to the basement where a burner was just starting to roar. Sara tried hard not to stutter but failed miserably and babbled: “Where are you taking my baby?” The silence resumed after the echo reverberated a few times around the room. “Why? …A kid…  Slaughtered!” Kassem replied in boredom: “What is confusing you?  Is it the killing of a kid or the method?” 

Aaron was recovering and his eyelids were fluttering as if coming out from a nightmarish dream and then abruptly straightened up as reality set in. “How could you slaughter a kid?” roared Aaron.  Kassem answered in a less cool tone: “This is a sacrificial ceremony; only halal ways is valid in cold-blooded murder”

Sara was recovering some of her wits and her argumentative style came forward: “How halal is murder?” Kassem was nonplussed: “At least we are no cowards using jet fighters and heavy guns to turn into mash flesh and bones children and civilians in their homes”  Aaron shouted “But we never slaughtered but sacrificial animals”

  Everybody understood that Aaron has lost it and that he was turning on automatic his academic behavior.  Aaron was not worth listening to at this phase.  Kassem continued to the intention of Sara: “Have you kept tab on the thousand of terrorist acts that you masterminded since before the recognition of the State of Israel by the so-called United Nations?  Have you ever heard that the UN condemned once the large-scale massacres of your Zionist State?”

Sara was totally indignant: “What we did was State orders; we never committed such monstrosity on an individual basis.  What you did is crime against humanity!”  It was obvious that Sara also lost it and was feverish and slathering.  Kassem decided to cool it down for another two minutes: just on instinct, since this was his first cold revenge.  This silence was very needed for the nerves to explode on both sides.

“Do you know the original name of this village, Saraaa?  I don’t think you ever cared.  Aaron did a small inquiry several years ago; he must have told you, didn’t he?”  Subconsciously, Aaron nodded his head and then recovered, but refused to look at his wife.  Sara said: “What do I care what this village was called? We bought this house with our hard-earned savings.”   Kassem continued as if he was not listening to Sara’s lucubration: “This was the village I was born in.  I lived the best five years of my life here.  My whole family was massacred by the terrorist Irgun of Menahim Begin. A surviving elder told me that my village had a non-aggression pact with the neighboring Jewish colonies. We even stupidly denied passage to the Arab contingent defending this sector.  Aaron must have related the story to you Saraaa?” 

Another minute sank in.  Sara shook her shoulders several times and shouted “But I had not immigrated to Israel when all that took place.”  Kassem said: “Nevertheless, the majority of Jewish mothers raised their children to become zealot Zionists.”  Aaron flicked his head toward Sara; that was a statement he fully comprehended and dreaded.  Kassem noticed Aaron’s reflex and resumed “All the facts and atrocities were never ground for reflection and atonement.  Did the massacre in this village kept you waking a single night, Saraaaaa?”

Youssef had returned.  Kassem motioned with his head toward the second girl.  Youssef walked softly toward the chair of the girl.  Aaron screeched “NO, please, let us talk”.  Kassem said: “You have a choice. Your girl or your wife?” 

Aaron instinctively nodded toward his wife but could not utter a word.  Hatefully, Kassem rub it in: “When you asked Sara for her hand you talked.  If the life of your second girl is as important, I need to hear a full sentence” Aaron failed to say a sentence and hoped that his silence might talk louder. 

Sara stabbed her husband with burning eyes; she just realized that Aaron had no affection for her.  She had no affection for Aaron for years now, but this does not count.  Aaron was supposed to love her till death did them apart; that was the deal.

Youssef then walked behind the girl, grabbed her chin and performed his expert motion.  The elder son and his folks were numb; this ordeal of cool deja-vu was totally out-of-place and comprehension.  Youssef carried the body to the basement.  The house smelled the steaks.

Aaron fainted again.  Kassem deigned to douse Aaron with a bucket of water. Kassem looked at Aaron and said: “You have a choice.  Either your son or your wife”  This time Aaron did not waver; he looked straight in the eyes of his wife and he saw unlimited contempt in her facial expression, as if she made the mistake of the century by marrying this weak, spineless man.  Aaron said firmly: “Spare my son.  I have been weak and failed the wisdom that blood draw blood.  My son will never return to this forsaken land of Israel”. 

Sara was furious and regaining her previous heinous aggressiveness and hysterically kept shouting: “Kill us all. Shoot us as we killed you, you bastards.  Shoot us as war criminals.  We deserve to be treated according to the human rights conventions”


Kassem was contemplating sparing Sara’s life to give hell to the rest of the family.  Since Youssef and he will not survive this kidnapping, he might as well take revenge on the apartheid woman: Aaron deserved a reprieve.  Kassem said with a broad smile: “Woman, it was not a pleasure meeting you“. Kassem and Youssef bolted out the door peppering their sub-machine guns.




December 2008

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