Adonis Diaries

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Philip Clark
Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Ludwig van Beethoven’s symphonies have influenced every generation of composers since they were written.

Riccardo Chailly talks to Philip Clark about the enduring power of the symphonies

Ludwig van Beethoven, the composer who, more than any other, changed music, the sound of music and what it is that composers do, wrote 9 symphonies that jolted music out of itself.

Life would never be the same again. The “classical” rationality of structure, harmony, form, melodic development and orchestration span into open-ended possibility.

And, nearly 200 years after his death, no one expects the pieces to settle down again any time soon.

This much we know; but how exactly did Beethoven’s symphonies shift the terrain so absolutely?

Riccardo Chailly’s convivial, knowing smile as we sit down to talk in the music room of his Milan home tells me that this is a man with answers.

There’s plenty to smile about: at 58, he’s about to release his first complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies, recorded over three seasons with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and they then go on tour with the cycle, taking in Leipzig, Vienna and Paris before concluding in London at the Barbican on November 3.

This is an ensemble that not only stakes a claim to being the world’s oldest, but which played the first complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies during the composer’s lifetime, and is proud to call Chailly its current Gewandhauskapellmeister.

And get this. Chailly is the orchestra’s 19th Gewandhauskapellmeister; its fifth was Mendelssohn and today’s artistic descendent of The Incomparable Felix is presently cracking jokes at the expense of my Ronnie Corbett-size digital recorder. “Inversamente proporzionale!” Chailly belly-laughs. “Does that tiny machine really have the capacity to contain every idea provoked by a discussion of Beethoven symphonies?”

Two hours later, the machine’s hanging on in there as we break for lunch. Retracing our steps back towards the dining room in Casa Chailly, he explains how walls were demolished to house floor-to-high ceiling shelving units now stuffed with the necessaries of his working life: music, composer critical studies, treatises about the art of conducting.

Open-plan rooms roll through each other like a Brooklyn railroad apartment and I catch glimpses of scores, encased witnesses to Chailly’s career: Verdi, Maderna, Mahler, Stravinsky, Varèse, Frank Zappa’s “The Yellow Shark”…all, unexpectedly, emphasising the centrality of Beethoven.

Because no matter how far back history takes you, or how deeply Edgard Varèse defies space-time continuums, beaming us up into a music that is forever the future, Beethoven is the tradition that tells us tradition must be protected from itself; that the most traditional thing about tradition is its radical soul.

Later, as I transcribe the interview tapes, I’m struck by the realisation that Chailly always substitutes “integrated” for my word “complete” when I’m describing his cycle. If this is a quirk of how Italian back-translates into English, the symbolism is still appropriate.

“My way of approaching Beethoven symphonies has always been to view them as a total work,” he explains, “which is not to say they all must be performed each time, but rather they are conceived as an opus magnum.”

How does giving the down-beat for the First Symphony’s Adagio molto introduction, while keeping the Ninth’s choral summation in mind, shape the idea of a “cycle” – an “integrated cycle” – rather than an anthology of nine self-contained performances?

“This gigantic ride, so long, so difficult, needs to be shaped logically; thinking about all the symphonies distributes that logic.”

Later we cut into how exactly Beethoven changed music and how vital the idea of “a cycle” was to him. But to set the scene I want to know about the concepts, obsessions, sonic contours of Chailly’s Beethoven.

Does the world needs another Beethoven cycle right now? With recent sets from Chailly’s erstwhile boss, Claudio Abbado, from Simon Rattle and the newly released Chambre Philharmonique cycle under Emmanuel Krivine – described by a former reviews editor of this magazine, James McCarthy, as containing a “mini revelation” inside each bar – some might reasonably conclude that we’re all Beethovened out.

Over a getting-to-know-you lunch, I tell Chailly how much I’ve been enjoying the soufflé lightness of Giulini’s Eroica, Fifth and Pastoral with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Giulini and the sound of the LAPO is an intriguing combination, Chailly thinks, but a radically different vision of Beethoven from his. He nearly drops his knife and fork when I mention my admiration for Bernstein’s Beethoven but accepts my point about the potency of Bernstein’s personal vision.

The vanguard, as Chailly sees it, starts with Karajan’s 1960s recordings and arrives in the 1990s at the twin peaks of David Zinman with the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra and John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

Chailly’s view was informed by their spadework, and by two conceptual starting points: he decided to perform everything at precisely Beethoven’s metronome mark and to resist the current orthodoxy of performing from Jonathan Del Mar’s new Beethoven edition (which nevertheless Chailly finds “very beautiful, very interesting and certainly very revealing”) and return instead to the edition Peters published at the end of the 19th century.

“We know from later editions that Beethoven’s markings were often misunderstood,” Chailly tells me, “and this Peters Edition, which was the second one they printed, was regarded as the most faithful to his intentions. Articulation and dynamics are crucial in Beethoven and the markings are extremely detailed.”

Different staccato marks et al are clearly delineated? “Yes. That’s a very important distinction – between a normal staccato, notated as a dot, and staccatissimo, which is written like an arrowhead. And also this edition is rich in dynamics – the shapes of dynamics, sudden dynamics.”

Chailly recalls drooling over George Szell’s scores of the Beethoven symphonies when he was guest conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra, and seeing wisdom shine through the pages. “After studying his scores, I discovered how much the conductor needs to interfere with dynamics to achieve even more clarity within the text.”

Interfere with dynamics to achieve an internal balance on a modern orchestra? “Yes, but never by adding instruments; I don’t like this tradition of doubling the woodwind or brass. Having a relatively large string section in Leipzig, I need to work even harder on dynamics to balance the original shape of the wind and brass, which originally would have been heard against a much smaller string section. The power of the strings is a dominant element in the sensational personal sound of the Gewandhaus Orchestra; this way of dealing with dynamics was part of the shock with the orchestra.”

The other upset is, of course, Chailly’s daringly literal approach to tempo, which aims a dirty bomb at the face of mannered, polite, tailored Beethoven. “After the first rehearsal of the First Symphony, the orchestra didn’t know what to think, or where to put themselves, but then they understood the challenge – this is how it’s going to be for the next three seasons.

“But all I did was choose the tempo Beethoven wrote in the score! The finale of the Eighth is basically on the edge of playability at Beethoven’s tempo. To articulate those double triplets on the strings, we needed to train for special clarity.” Chailly attempts to sing the same passage, stumbles, laughs. Point made.

“The first movement, too, is magnificent to do all alla breve instead of in the usual 3.” Chailly’s bel canto voice tongue-lashes the Eighth’s opening phrase, ending with a surprise diminuendo where most conductors stress the final chord. His diminuendo, he says, asks: what’s next?

“The Andante of the First Symphony, at Beethoven’s tempo, radically changes the dimensions of the whole movement. It condenses the perfect shape of Beethoven’s sonata form, and instead of the traditional fast 3/8, it is all in 1, which gives it the character of a Baroque minuet.” And the dancing-through-your-bones finale of the Seventh? At Beethoven’s tempo?

“That’s actually a human tempo already. There are many notes but it is to be conducted all in 1. Actually, it’s often done much faster than is written.” The exception that proves the rule.

Velocity, tempo, speed, attack. Viscerally invigorating, intellectually stimulating, but in itself an interpretation? I wonder how Chailly’s tempo choices trickle into other musical parameters. If we’re talking about how music was never the same again after Beethoven, there’s a problem. Harmony has a dynamic function in Beethoven.

But, in life, Beethoven’s harmonies have become habitual, accepted, robbed of their capacity to crash the threshold. Music we love listening to. Music we don’t necessarily hear. Classics for pleasure. Could reconnecting Beethoven’s symphonies with Beethoven’s tempi reconnect us with Beethoven’s harmonic sting?

“The change of gear between harmonies is even more tangible at these tempi,” Chailly nods. “In the first movement of the Eighth, where the harmony changes all the time, the tempo – his tempo – shows the instability of the harmony. Compare this to Haydn or Mozart: in the moment of harmonic change you jump with surprise; but Beethoven exists in a constant state of change.”

Tonal instability is my pet fascination. How come Beethoven was the composer who changed music more than anybody since Papa Bach? Was it because harmonic development was no longer contained by structure, but rippled through to change the structure?

Fire finding its form, as William Blake put it, a direct historical line that led eventually to everything that happened in the wake of serialism, towards the spectral composition of Iancu Dumitrescu and Horațiu Rădulescu, where strategies are deployed to make instruments themselves unstable, to Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics (rhythm, harmony, melody given equality within the unfolding structure) and the self-termed “non-idiomatic” guitar improvisations of Derek Bailey?

That would be a nice story to tell but history has its history too. Ives and Tippett said plenty about Beethoven, but Schoenberg and Stravinsky, figures destined to power the motor of 20th-century revolution, had surprisingly little to say.

Stravinsky distrusted the Beethovenian spirit. John Cage heard emotional manipulation inside Beethoven’s music and spoke out against it given even half a chance. And composers who responded to Beethoven’s challenges via reconstituted Beethovenian forms were always doomed. Rationalising instability? What’s the point?

Chailly is well placed to discuss the contemporary resonance of Beethoven. His father was the composer Luciano Chailly, an intimate of Luigi Nono and Luciano Berio.

In 2004 Radio Netherlands issued a 13-CD box documenting Chailly’s 16 years as principle conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: Bartók, Stravinsky, Berio, Maderna, Rihm, Peter Schat and Tristan Keuris are filed alongside performances of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Mahler and a headbanging Beethoven Symphony No 2 without fuss.

Chailly’s 1998 cycle of the complete Varèse outguns any rival. He plays new music like it’s already classic, classical music like it’s mint fresh. What does he think subsequent composers took from Beethoven’s harmonic instability? No hesitation: Robert Schumann is the first that comes to Chailly’s mind.

Amjad Yaghi

May 16, 2023

Among the stories told, and are still being told, by those who remain from the Palestinian Nakba generation, is that they agreed to take residence in the Palestinian refugee camps established in five areas under the supervision of UNRWA, because they believed they were temporary and that they would eventually return to Palestine.

However, their hopes were shattered and the dream grew even more distant following the creation of Apartheid State of Israel. .

After 75 years of the Palestinian Nakba, the Palestinian refugee camps have become significant sites for Palestinians, as they played a crucial role on the political, social, and cultural levels, even in the struggle against Israeli occupation.

Over time, the number of refugees in these camps has increased, along with their repeated humanitarian suffering. They have also faced discrimination and Israeli aggression, including the cleansing that some camps have been subjected to due to regional political events.

Some refugee camps have become more like popular areas that play a social and even economic role in their regions, such as the Yarmouk camp in Syria before 2011, the Jabalia camp in the Gaza Strip, the Aqabah camp in Jordan, and the Balata and al-Am’ari camps in the West Bank.

6 million Palestinian refugees

Around 800,000 Palestinian refugees left the historic Palestine in 1948, according to UNRWA. The numbers registered with the agency reached 6 million Palestinians in the diaspora in the four Levant countries, distributed in five administrative regions affiliated with UNRWA, and not in other regions outside it, noting that unmentioned numbers immigrated to European and American countries.

The refugees are distributed with 59% in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, as mentioned by the Palestinian WAFA News and Info Agency, and 17% in the West Bank and 24% in the Gaza Strip.

Approximately 29% of them live in 58 camps, distributed as follows: 10 camps in Jordan, 9 camps in Syria, 12 camps in Lebanon, 19 camps in the West Bank, and 8 camps in the Gaza Strip.

Due to overcrowded living conditions in the camps, additional camps have emerged and branched out as emergency camps, as a result of the renewed conflicts in the region.

Concerns about the future of Gaza’s camps

Despite the architectural development witnessed by Palestinian camps in the Gaza Strip and their vertical and horizontal expansion, they can be described more akin to “sardine cans” due to overcrowding and population congestion.

This is exacerbated by the Israeli blockade, which restricts movement and travel, with the exception of a single outlet that has recently been in regular operation; the Rafah crossing.

The situation is even worse in terms of infrastructure, humanitarian services, and even recreational spaces within the Palestinian camps.

Some camps do not even have parks due to urban expansion and limited space for public transportation.

Any available space has also been converted for other public uses, including areas for street vendors selling from carts. This fact is applicable to the majority of parks in the Gaza Strip.

The problem in Gaza is progressing with some differences compared to other Palestinian camps in the diaspora, due to the halt in the migration of camp residents to the city center.

The small size of the Gaza Strip compared to its population poses a risk. According to the data of the Ministry of Interior for the end of 2022, the population in the Gaza Strip exceeded 2.375 million people, including approximately 1.5 million registered refugees with UNRWA according to the latest figures from 2021. Thus, two-thirds of Gaza’s population are refugees.

In addition to the imminent danger surrounding the future of the camps due to predictions of a population explosion within a small area of no more than 360 square kilometers, the danger is further amplified by the absence of a political solution and the unceasing tension and conflict in the region.

This is particularly evident during Israeli aggressions and attacks launched against the Gaza Strip, where targets within the camps are bombarded, increasing the likelihood of casualties and damage to homes due to overcrowding.

This has occurred in previous instances, with the most recent being the bombing of the al-Shaout area in the Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip and the Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip, resulting in dozens of casualties during August of last year 2022.

West Bank camps under occupation

In the West Bank, there are 19 camps designated for Palestinian refugees.

They are as follows; al-Am’ari, Jalazone, Dheisheh, al-Arroub, Fawwar, al-Faria, Balata, Beit Jibrin, Jenin, Deir ‘Ammar, Camp No. 1, Shu’fat, Tulkarm, Aida, Askar, Aqabat Jaber, Ein Al Sultan, Qalandiya, and Nur Shams refugee camps. UNRWA estimates that there are approximately 830,000 refugees residing in these camps. (Israel frequently do early morning attacks to kill round up Palestinians. Sharon totally destroyed the camp of Jenin and exacted hundred of casualties)

But the suffering of the camps in the West Bank is manifested in the continuous attempts by the Israeli army to plant tools and cameras with strict surveillance inside the camps, with ina strong concentration of checkpoints near them, especially regarding what is recently happening in the camps within the cities of Jenin and Nablus.

Jordanian camps and the “Jerash Gaza” camp

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Palestinian Affairs in the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, there are approximately 2,275,589 Palestinian refugees, accounting for 39.1% of the registered refugees in all areas of operation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The number of refugees inside the 10 recognized camps is 396,006, representing 17.4% of the registered refugees in Jordan, while the number of refugees outside the ten camps is 1,879,583, accounting for 82% of the registered refugees in Jordan.

The debate continues about the percentage of Palestinians in Jordan, considering that a large number of them hold official Jordanian documents. Palestinian sources estimate their percentage to be over 60%, while Jordanian sources suggest that they are approximately 40%.

UNRWA established ten camps for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, namely the camps of Irbid, Baqa’a, Husn, Zarqa, Talbieh, Jabal el-Hussein, Souf, Amman, Marka, and finally, Jerash camp, known among Jordanians as “Jerash Gaza,” which was established in 1968 as the last camp in Jordan to host the largest number of Palestinian refugees in the region.

It was considered an emergency camp to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced Gazans who were forced to leave the Gaza Strip after the 1967 Naksa.

In recent years, some Palestinian camps have witnessed the migration of residents from the camps to the heart of Jordanian cities and villages, while many continue to suffer difficult humanitarian and economic conditions.

With the increase in population density, the poor infrastructure and public services keep worsening, and the camp witnessing the most suffering among the camps is the “Jerash Gaza” camp.

The “Jerash Gaza” camp is home to more than 24,000 refugees, according to the latest data from UNRWA in 2021.

Human rights organizations also mention that out of four buildings in the “Jerash Gaza” camp, three are uninhabitable due to structural problems. It is also considered one of the poorest areas in the Kingdom of Jordan.

From time to time, the House of Representatives activates the issue of “Gaza’s sons”, as is known in the council, but with no progress, as they are the poorest in Jordan due to the restrictions imposed on them in the field of work. They are not allowed to work in the public sector, and there is a long list of professions limited to Jordanian citizens, such as medicine, engineering, pharmacy, and others that require membership in professional associations and trade unions, which is restricted to the citizens of the country.

They face difficulties in various aspects of life, including education, health, social, and economic challenges. There are growing concerns about the collapse of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which operates the schools where their children study. This means that they will have to bear the costs of educating their children in compulsory elementary schools. Moreover, universities treat them as foreign nationals and charge them fees in US dollars.

Lebanon’s camps and discrimination

The camps in Lebanon are subjected to the most severe forms of discrimination in basic citizenship rights, especially in terms of employment discrimination and being deprived of more than 70 public jobs.

They are also prohibited from owning property outside the camps. Additionally, there is poor infrastructure, limited services, and difficulty accessing some camp facilities due to overcrowding.

According to the data from UNRWA in 2021, the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps, totaling 12 camps, reached approximately 480,000 refugees.

The largest concentration of refugees is in Ein el-Hilweh camp, along with the camps of Beddawi, Nahr al-Bared, El-Buss, Mieh Mieh, Bourj el-Barajneh, Rashidieh, Burj Shemali, Shatila, Dbayeh, Mar Elias, and Wavel camp.

More than 30,000 Palestinian refugees fled from Syrian camps and sought refuge in Palestinian camps in Lebanon, joining refugees residing there and sharing their escalating hardships and suffering. They transferred their records and sought assurances for the continuation of humanitarian aid in the camps.

Strategic solutions to the plight of Palestinian refugees in areas experiencing political conflicts in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria remain elusive. The focus remains on temporary solutions and demands for the continuity of humanitarian aid

90% of Palestinians within Syrian camps are extremely poor

According to the latest registration of refugee numbers in 2011, there were over 650,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria. However, as UNRWA clarifies, the available data reflects the most recent information the agency could access due to obstacles and challenges it faces.

During the Sixth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, the UNRWA Commissioner-General stated that the Palestinian community is among the most vulnerable refugee communities in the region. He emphasized that 90% of them live in poverty out of a total of 438,000 Palestinian refugees who remain in Syria out of an original 650,000.

They are located in 12 camps: Yarmouk, Dara’a, Latakia, Neirab, Jaramana, Hama, Homs, Khan Dannoun, Sbeineh, Ein el-Tal, Qabr Essit, and Mar Elias.

By the end of December 2022, the Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria – a human rights organization specialized in monitoring the conditions of Palestinian refugees in Syria and documenting the repercussions of the Syrian war – reported that around 130,000 Palestinians from Syrian camps had reached Europe, mostly through unofficial routes.

Approximately 31,000 Palestinian refugees had fled from Syria to Lebanon by October 2022, some attempting illegal migration routes, while others perished at sea, including the victims of the sunken Tartus boat.

Yarmouk camp is the largest camp that dominated the Palestinian scene in Syria following the outbreak of events in 2011. Figures indicate that it housed around 160,000 Palestinian refugees. It experienced a series of bombardments and clashes between parties to the Syrian conflict. At present, only thousands have returned to live in the camp after the Syrian regime allowed them to come back.

On the other hand, strategic solutions to the plight of Palestinian refugees in areas experiencing political conflicts in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria remain elusive.

Instead, the focus predominantly remains on temporary solutions, repeated humanitarian demands, the continuity of aid, and demands for the improvement of infrastructure.

There is a lack of consideration for the future and comprehensive solutions to address the issues of population expansion and urban planning, or the risk of spreading armed conflicts to these areas, leaving Palestinians to face a dark and uncertain future amidst the ongoing conflicts and turmoil in the region.

In our modern age, global positioning systems help us find our bearings and track our location. Telescopes help us observe the sky. 

But how was this possible one thousand years ago? 

How did they find their way, how did they measure the distance between stars, and how were they able to calculate the height of mountains? .

“Al Astrulabi contributed to tracking the position of the sun, moon, stars and planets, helping find the Qiblah and ascertaining prayer times and the date of Ramadan.”

For Muslims, the position of the sun plays a crucial role in determining prayer times.

Finding the most accurate bearing of the Kaaba, in Makkah, has been an integral part of Islamic science since its inception. As such, astronomy has always played an important role. 

From Al Battuni, Al Kharawizmi, and Thabit Ibn Qurra, to Ali Al Qushji, Ulugh Bey, and Al Biruni, Muslim polymaths have always helped innovate and expand the discipline. 

But it’s not only Muslim men who have contributed. In the 10th century, a Muslim woman, Maryam Al Ijlya – also known as Mariam Al Astrulabi – changed the face of astronomy forever by pioneering the astrolabe. 

Her contribution to astronomy was recognised in 1990 when Henry H. Holy discovered the main-best asteroid at Palomar Observatory and named it the 7069 Al Ijliyye.

Astrolabes are used for astronomical observations, timekeeping and navigation. Mariam’s innovation also laid the foundation for managing transport and for communication routes.

She also contributed to tracking the position of the sun, moon, stars and planets, helping find the Qiblah and ascertaining prayer times and the date of Ramadan.

Mariam is considered one of the 200 most famous astronomers in history. 

Born to the astrolabe-maker Al Ijliy Al-Astrulabi in Syria during the 10th century, Mariam’s father was her inspiration. Her mastery was soon discovered by the founder of the Emirate of Aleppo, Sayf Al Dawla, who employed her in his royal court. 

During his reign between 944 to 967AD, Mariam helped develop navigation and timekeeping and became well-known throughout the region as the maker of the most detailed astrolabes of her generation.

Nigerian-American science-fiction writer, Nnedi Okorafor revealed in 2016 that Mariam was her source of inspiration in her novella, Binti. Okorafor learnt about Mariam Al Astulabi in the United Arab Emirates during a book festival. Okorafor’s book won an award in 2015, and Mariam was also named an extraordinary woman from the Islamic Golden Age by the 1001 Inventions.

How astrolabes work and help

The astrolabe first appeared as a scientific instrument used to reckon the time and observe the sky. There is a disk of metal or wood with the circumference marked off within degrees. A portable pointer pivots at the disk’s centre and is called an alidade. 

Astrolabes enabled astronomers to calculate the positions of the stars and sun regarding their positions on the horizon and the meridian.

Their invention is traced back to the ancient Greeks. However, they were widely used during the Middle Ages by Muslims and Europeans. Their use became common among mariners around the 15th century until the development of sextants. 

From the 8th to 15th centuries, Muslim astronomers produced countless sophisticated astronomical works. Muslim scholars, particularly those during the Islamic Golden Age, helped create innovative discoveries that would impact generations to come. 

Dr Ufuk Necat Tasci is a political analyst, academic, and journalist. His research areas and interests include Libya, the foreign policy of Turkey, proxy wars, surrogate warfare, and new forms of conflict and history

Ibn Sina: The 10th-century Muslim who reinvented reason. Ufuk Necat Tasci

Maghdouche – History & Heritage is in Maghdouche.

Note: English translation follows. My mother also suffered from sea-sickness and the Captain conjectured that she won’t make it to Marseille in 1947. It was common for parents to leave their children with their grandparents when immigrating.


** قُصِّةْ سَعْدَة ** The Story of Sadie (Sa3dat al Naashef from Maghdoushi near Saida)- A Lebanese Immigrant **

* الجزء الأول * [Part 1] * [ENGLISH BELOW] *

كان يَوم السبت، ٥ تشرين التاني سنة ال١٩١٠، لِمِّنْ وُصْلِت باخرتنا، باخرة القديس بولس، عَ مرفأ نيو يُرْك. وُصُلْت مستويِّي عالآخر،

لعيانة نفسي ومَعْش قادرة أوقف عَ جْرَيِّي: ٦ إيام بالبحر من فْرَنسا،

وقَبْلُنْ الرِّحلة من بيروت. وكنت بعدني زغيري، ما كَنْشْ إلي ٧ اشهر مطبّْقة ال١٥ سنة! وأني كِنْتِش معوَّدي عالسَّفر، يِعني أطوَل مُشوار كان عَ حمارِةْ جِدّي الياس من الضيعة لَ المتَيّرِيِّي!

نْزِلْت من الباخرة ونطرْت دَوري، و من بعد تلات أربع ساعات تفتيش وشحشطة قطعت. الحمدلله قطَعت فحص الحكيم،

كنت عتلاني همّ عَيَدّْ سْمِعنا إنُّه في ناس حطّوهن بالحجر. بالآخر وصلت قدام صف مفتّشين، لابسين بدلات كِحليِّي، وقاعدين عَ كراسي كبار هَالعِلي! وُصِل دَوري وعيّطلي المترجم. مسِك المفتِّش ورقة وصار يُقرا ويسألني بالأنكليزي والمترجم بالعربي.

– «إسمِك؟»

– «سَعْدَة النّاشِف»

– «إسم بيِّك؟»

– «نقولا… نقولا الياس مخايل الناشف»

– «وإسم إمِّك؟»

– «هيلانة جِحا»

– «مواليد أي سنة؟»

– «ال٩٥… ٢٠ نيسان ١٨٩٥»

أني ما كنتش أعرفْ لا إكتب ولا أُقرا… بس كنت حافظة كل شي عالغيب، قالولي اللي بِجاوبْش مِتلَ مكتوب عالورقة بوقّفوه عَ جنب.

وكمّل المترجم يسأل:

– «وَين؟… مواليد وين؟»

– «مغدوشي، جبل لِبنان.»

سمعتُه بقلُّه بالأنكليزي: «مغدوشي، سيريا.» قِلت بقلبي: «تخمين بضمّونا مع بلاد الشام هَون.» مع إنّه نحنا كان نُصّ الضّيعة تابع لَ مِتْصَرّْفِيِّة جبل لِبنان والنص التاني لولاية سوريا، وقبل ما إخلق بْكَم سنة، ضمّونا لولاية بيروت.

وبِكَمِّل المترجم:

– «عند مين جايي هون؟»

– «عند إمّي وبَيِّي.»

مَنُّه إمّي وبيّي تَرَكوني مع بَت جِدّي أني وزغيري وهاجروا عَ كندا. ورجعوا إجوا عَ أميركا قبلي بخمس سنين.

ما كَنْش يخلِّص أسئلة هالمفتّش وأني بقلبي صرت صلّي: «يا عدرا دَخْل جْرَيْكي يخلص بقى، بدّي الصَّرفي أوصل شوف إمّي وبَيّي وإخواتي الزغار، هالفصافيص الأمركان!» ما أني إخواتي كنت بعدني مش شايفتُن ولا مرّة، ولا سامعة صوتُن. وإمّي وبيّي…

كانت صورتُن براسي عم تغَبِّش، وصَوتُن عم يِخْتْفي… مَنُّه ما كَنْش في عنّا لا كاميرات ولامسَجّلات ولا تَليفونات بْهَدِيك الإيام يا تُقْبُرنَي!


Part 1

It was on Saturday, the 5th of November 1910, when our ship, the SS Saint Paul, arrived at New York’s port. I was nauseous and worn out… I was ready to drop. In fact, I was still very young: I had turned 15 that year. Also, I wasn’t used to traveling; the longest trip I had taken was on Jiddo Elias’s donkey from our village to Mtayriye, less than two miles from home!

Once we got off the ship, doctors started examining us one by one. Thank God I passed the medical inspection; I was worried as we heard that some people were being quarantined.

Finally, after waiting in line for several hours, I was called forward by an Arabic interpreter. I stood in front of an inspector; he was wearing a blue navy suit and seated on a tall stool in front of a high desk. He started asking me questions in English and the inspector translated them to Arabic.

– “Your full name?”

– “Sadie Nashif.”

– “Your father’s full name?”

– “Nicholas… Nicholas Elias Mikhael Nashif.”

– “And your mother’s?”

– “Helene Jeha”

– “When were you born?”

– “I was born in the year 95… April 20, 1895.”

I was illiterate, I could neither read nor write. However, I had made sure to memorize my birthday because I was told that if my answers didn’t match the information they had, I could get in trouble.

The inspector carried on with the questions:

– “What is your place of birth?”

– “Maghdoushe, Mount Lebanon.”

I heard the interpreter telling him: “Maghdoushe, Syria”. I thought to myself: “apparently, they consider us as part of Bilad Al Sham (the Greater Syria)”. Even though, back then Maghdoushe was partly in the Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon and partly in the Vilayet of Syria and a few years before I was born, it was added to the new Vilayet of Beirut.

The inspector then asks:

– “Are you meeting a relative here in America?”

– “Yes, my parents.”

In fact, my parents had left me with my grand-parents and immigrated to Canada when I was a kid. Then, they moved to the States five years before my arrival.

That interrogation seemed like an eternity! I silently prayed: “Jesus, let this end! I can’t wait to see my parents and my little brother’s… those little American punkins!”

I had neither seen my brother’s nor heard their voices. And my parents… well I would close my eyes and see them as silhouettes against a dimming sky and their voices were fading away. In fact, my dear, we didn’t have cameras and phones back in the day!

[To Be Continued]

Sabine Choucair (Of the Clown-me-In) posted on Fb 

“Oh yeah as if people in #Sweden need a lot of clowning!”. We heard this sarcastic sentence so much before going.

You know what? They actually do.

Regardless of my belief that every person on earth needs clowning, I would say the Sweden sites I visited this time is much more extreme, hateful and unwelcoming of differences than the one I remember.

My fellow clowns with Lebanese passports got a visa for only 9 days.

The few refugees we met there said there’s a change of behavior towards them.

Isn’t it a general thing all over the world these days?

So yeah it was important to be there. Not because we are saving the world but because we have people from different backgrounds coming and laughing together and it’s beautiful, kind, magical, funny and respectful.

A constant reminder that it’s definitely easier to be kind in this world.

On a personal level, this trip was magical.

I missed Sweden, my friends and funny enough I missed its silence.

During the many performances I found truthfulness and comedy in moments of utmost silence. Nothing more rewarding than that.

I found new games in skits I’ve been doing for almost 12 years. These moments of nothingness, just me, stage light, eyes, breaths and one small connection with one audience member and pouufffff “laughter”. WwwwAwwww

Then lots and lots of hugs, from adults and kids.

Then a kid runs to me and shouts slowly “This was very very very beautiful” and gives me the biggest hug.

His mom follows, with tears in her eyes: “ He’s never been that happy, thank you. He has autism.” And then she gives me a big big hug.

Again, a reminder of how much easier it is to be kind in this world.

Thanks to all those who made this trip possible. Pics by Amar Sokhen#diariesofaclownRamy Abi KhalilHisham AssaadSamer SarkisStephanie SotiryJana MghamesCharbel R. SammourJonas Pour Mozaffar Lars Garpenfeldt Clown Me InClowner utan GränserGhinwa Khalifeh


Patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper? I thought senses degrade by Patience of growing age?

By: Erik Rittenberry

We live in a shallow society which is why so many people are so petty and spiritually depleted.

Complainers, ranters, “success” hounds, mall shoppers, status seekers, political junkies, media consumers, outrage sniffers, money lovers, “hustle and grind” gurus — Christ, the circus of the modern world is endless.

Very few people understand what it means to simply BE. To be aware. To be madly alive with the brief time given to them.

Fear is born out of continuously kneeling at the altar of security. Freedom is sacrificed for comfort which is why so many of us in contemporary society become mere cogs in the machinery of life.

Is there any wonder why more and more people today are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression?

Our inherent genius and curiosity seemed to be etched out of many of us at a very early age.

And we seem to be proud of it. Our minds are tethered to our conditioning and belief systems and we become chained to the manufactured ideals of culture.

We become like the majority who find their identities in careers and possessions and status—the dominant values of the modern world.

We are people who seem to be solely concerned with “having” and “appearing” a certain way to appease society. It’s an empty mode of existence. (Though the busiest of modes)

American physician and psychotherapist, Dr. Alexander Lowen, observed that “few people in our culture have the courage to be themselves. Most people adopt roles, play games, wear masks, or put up facades. They do not believe that their genuine self is acceptable.” (If the faked Self is compassionate and kind, then it is much better than the original that actuallly is blurred to him)

Lowen believed this mode of being was inevitable in a technological culture where people’s “values are sacrificed for money and power.” (As in all periods and cultures?)

When one abandons authenticity, Lowen points out, they become “tormented by the contradiction between the inner reality and the outer facade.” (They are Not conscious of what ail them because they are confused of who they are)

This is where we’re at.

But friends let me tell you, on your deathbed, the blues skies and the birds and the wind in the trees will be immensely more significant than your retirement account.

Be. Alive. Now.

As the great writer, Llewelyn Powys once said, “We should grow less involved in society and more deeply involved in existence.”

To live in the mode of “BEING” instead of the fruitless manner of “HAVING” is to be active, not in the mindless busy sense, but inner activity, to give expression to one’s own deep-seated yearnings and talents.

To renew yourself daily, to grow, to learn, to be in forever search of the sublime.  

Do dangerous things. Uncivilize a bit. Explore the natural world. Forget about your reputation. Put your bare feet on the earth. Be astonished. Create something.

It was the great Jiddu Krishnamurti who once reminded us:

“It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree—not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself—and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind.

If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches which no government can tax, no human agency can corrupt, and which can never be destroyed.”

By: William Faulkner

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it.

There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? (Almost every day, there is a shooting in schools)

Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. (If the writer is Not emotionally deficient)

He must learn them again. (Meaning try hard to acquire emotional Intelligence?)

He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

Until he does so, he labors under a curse.

He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man.

It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. (Too long a sentence to comprehend what he refuses to accept)

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. (He did prevail at the expense of most other living species and he defeated his survival process)

He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. (Not convincing: Not hungry big beasts care for the babies of other animal species)

The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

The poet’s voice needs not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.


Archeological evidence in the Lavant region of the Middle East (Crossroad to cultural mingling) points to a past where Neanderthals and Homo sapiens co-existed, and likely interbred early in our origin story, for over 100,000 years.

By Sara Novak Feb 22, 2022

We’ve long thought that Homo sapiens outlived Neanderthals because we were more intelligent.

Essentially, modern humans entered the scene some 200,000 years ago, then quickly dominated and began our reign at the top of the food chain. Neanderthals were supposedly pushed to extinction by human gumption, and that’s why we survive today.

According to archeologists, this high-handed, simplified version of our human origin is likely untrue.

Experts in this field point to a much cloudier view of our evolutionary past based on the rich Stone Age archeology of the Levant, which encompasses the Mediterranean shores of the Middle East today.

It’s likely that this temperate meld of coastal plain and hill country was actually home to a melting pot of Neanderthals and H. sapiens who lived together for more than 100,000 years, according to Erella Hovers, a professor of prehistoric archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe that there was a big barrier separating these two groups in the Levant,” says Hovers. “It’s more likely that small groups of both H. sapiens and Neanderthals were constantly moving in and out of the area, and coexisting peacefully.”

They were both hunting and gathering populations. Neanderthals moved back and forth to Europe, where they originally evolved; H. sapiens moved back and forth to Africa for the same reason. Hovers says that it’s unlikely that when one group moved through, the other would exit.

“It’s not like they were playing musical chairs and when one group came in the other would leave. When they were in the Levant, these groups likely had territories and were separate but they would probably come in contact with each other from time to time,” she says.

She adds that this prehistoric gathering place was no accident. Both groups ended up in the Levant because it was a favorable place to live that linked Africa to Asia. Its mild climate cultivated ample flora and fauna for feasting.

More Alike Than Different

Research does not solidify whether these communities co-existed at a certain moment in time. But, says Hovers, when you compare fossils from Neanderthal archeological dig sites and H. sapiens dig sites, the dating is similar, suggesting it would make sense that the groups lived together contemporaneously.

What’s more, the material culture of each group is indistinguishable — they seemed to use similar tools and burial customs. Both hunted with spear-like weapons and ate foods like deer, gazelles, pigs and wild cows. It’s actually hard to tell which material culture belonged to which group, unless you find a fossil specimen right beside a weapon or tool.

Neanderthals would have looked different from H. sapiens, but not that different. 

Research has shown Neanderthals had a relatively short and stocky build, an arched brow and protruding jawbones. But according to Hovers, the appearance was not so shocking that they never got together with humans. 

Paleo-genetic evidence has suggested that early Neanderthal and H. sapiens interbreeding most likely happened in the Levant. We can’t know whether such sexual encounters were forced or coercive, and it’s impossible to know what the different groups thought of each other.

Hovers says “These were two viable and fertile groups with no reproductive separation between the two populations.”

Why Neanderthals Eventually Went Extinct

H. sapiens and Neanderthals lived together for thousands of years before Neanderthals went extinct. But, according to anthropologist Oren Kolodny, it wasn’t because of brains. “The material cultures were too similar for it to be the result of intelligence,” he says.

Research has shown that diseases were a likely culprit

H. sapiens might have brought diseases up from Africa and spread them to a Neanderthal population that had few defenses. According to 2019 research published in Nature Communications, “an asymmetry of disease burden in the contact zone might have favored modern humans, who arrived there from the tropics.”

Coexistence likely flourished longer in the Levant because Neanderthals and H. sapiens interbred and therefore Neanderthals adopted some of the immune system defenses that would protect them longer than in other parts of the world.

No matter what caused their end, these two analogous populations likely lived alongside each other for 100,000 years or more before they parted ways.

So, the next time you denounce someone for being a Neanderthal, remember they just might be your distant relative’s neighbor. And because they interbred, you yourself are a teeny-tiny bit of a Neanderthal.

Read More: How Humans Survived the Ice Age

Jessica Buxbaum

15 May, 2023

Over 180 Palestinian villages that were destroyed in 1948 are now Israeli recreational sites or national parks, with environmentalism used to conceal the history of the Nakba

In 1967, Israel expelled the residents of Imwas, a Palestinian village northwest of Jerusalem that was captured during the Six-Day War, and demolished the town.

Today its remains — along with three other villages — are buried under non-indigenous eucalyptus and oak trees as part of Ayalon Canada Park, with barely a trace of its former inhabitants’ lives left.

More than 180 Palestinian villages, whose residents (over 800,000) were displaced during the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing of Palestine known as the Nakba or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, are now Israeli recreational sites.

After the state of Israel was established in 1948, government agencies and “non-profit organisations” – like the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – began turning depopulated Palestinian villages into green spaces, under the Zionist myth that colonisation was “making the desert bloom”.

“The fact that some of these forests have no names, are not cared for, nor accessible for hiking or any kind of activities, shows that their sole purpose is to actually just take over the land and cover up the remains of the villages [and] to prevent the refugees’ return,Najwan Berekdar, media and advocacy director at Zochrot, an NGO promoting recognition of the Nakba in Israeli society, told The New Arab.

Haider Abu Gosh, who was expelled from Imwas when he was 14 years old, acknowledged how many of the village’s residents-turned-refugees can’t even visit the land that was once theirs.

“This park became a recreation area for the Israeli Jews or anyone who can get there,” Abu Gosh said. “Unfortunately, the people from the village who are still living in the West Bank can’t get there.”

After being displaced, Abu Gosh grew up in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Today he’s only able to access his land because he received Israeli citizenship when he married a Palestinian woman with Israeli citizenship.

The Palestinian village of Lifta, west of Jerusalem, was depopulated by Zionist militias in 1948. [Getty]

The JNF’s role in hiding history

Created in 1901 during the Zionist Congress in Switzerland, the JNF was tasked with buying land in Palestine for Jewish settlement.

The process was typically done through absentee landlords, but when Palestinians became aware of the JNF’s efforts in the 1920s, they refused to sell their land to the organisation. The JNF then turned to more insidious methods of acquiring land, like recruiting Palestinians to buy plots for the fund.

By Israel’s founding, almost 90 per cent of Palestinian land seized during the Nakba was transferred to state and JNF ownership under Israeli military orders and legislation.

“The JNF did not only play a role in the displacement of Palestinians in ’48. They continue to play that role today

Noga Kadman, an Israeli tour guide and author of Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948, explained that the JNF initiated its forestation campaign to make Palestine resemble the European nations Zionist settlers arrived from. But after 1948, planting trees became a way to conceal Palestinian history.

“[Parks’ authorities] ignore the villages altogether,” Kadman said, describing how the signs rarely mention the area was once a Palestinian village unless it relates to nature, such as the villages’ orchards being absorbed into the park.

“They present the villages as violent against Jews or Israelis or as a destination for occupation without talking about them also as civil places where families used to live,” Kadman said. “They never describe the real reasons why those places are empty now.”

Kadman explained that the information presented in these parks serves to reinforce the false narrative of a country with a Jewish majority.

“It’s part of the mechanism to shape the Israeli awareness or lack of awareness to the full story of the history and geography in the country,” Kadman said.

Israeli police detain a young woman as Palestinian Bedouins protest in the southern Israeli village of Sawe al-Atrash in the Negev, or Naqab, desert against a forestation project by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), on 12 January 2022. [Getty]

A Nakba never finished

The JNF’s forestation campaign hasn’t ended, Zochrot’s Berekdar emphasised, explaining how erasure through environmentalism is ongoing.

“The JNF did not only play a role in the displacement of Palestinians in ’48,” Berekdar said. “They continue to play that role today.”

The JNF is currently pushing Jewish-only development in Palestinian-heavy areas like the Galilee and the Naqab (or Negev desert, where a village was demolished over 150 times in order to force the “bedouins” to transfer)).  

“In almost every Palestinian locality or in every JNF park that we’ve visited, we can see cactuses. And that tells us that there has been a Palestinian village here”

 “These projects are being built in order to transfer more Palestinians and to take over more land,” Berekdar said.

“The idea is not only to prevent Palestinians from taking this land, or from purchasing land and expanding. The idea is also to take away the land as much as possible from people who might then request to get back the land.”

While many Palestinian refugees are blocked from returning home, Abu Gosh often visits his former village now to explain the land’s history to journalists and tourists, but returning isn’t easy.

“Even after more than 50 years, still I get worried. And sometimes it’s even difficult to stop myself from crying,” Abu Gosh said. “I don’t like it but I have to go just to speak about what happened.”

Despite Israel wiping out Palestinian memories, the land is as resilient as its people and little pockets of Palestine creep through.

“In almost every Palestinian locality or in every JNF park that we’ve visited, we can see cactuses. And that tells us that there has been a Palestinian village here,” Berekdar said. “If you look closely around, there are things that can help you tell it was Palestinian land.”

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Palestine and Israel. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The National, and Gulf News.

Follow her on Twitter: @jess_buxbaum

In Masafer Yatta, the Nakba is ongoing. Jessica Buxbaum

75 years after the Nakba, Palestinians still dream of return. Rami Almeghari

By: Fernando Pessoa

If, after I die, they want to write my biography,
There is nothing more simple.
There are only two dates – the one of my birth and that of my death.
Between the two every day things are mine.

I’m pretty easy to define.
I saw myself as a fool.
I loved things without any sentimentality.
I never had a desire that I couldn’t realise, because I never blinded myself.

Even hearing was never to me but an accompaniment to sight.
I realised that things are real and all are different from each other;
I realised this with my eyes never by thought.
Understanding this by thought finds them all alike.

One day she made me sleep like a child.
I closed my eyes and I was sleeping.
Beyond that, I was the one poet of Nature.

Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), the Portuguese poet, literary critic, and essayist, is one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century.

He wrote not only under his own name but under over a hundred others (including Alexander Search, Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis, and Bernardo Soares).

You can find this poem in one of my favorite all-time books of poetry— A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems




May 2023

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