Adonis Diaries

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“The Little Schools” of Mount Lebanon. And Joseph Delore (1873-1944)

In the first half of 1900, The Jesuit missionaries in Mount Lebanon instituted “little Schools” in the poor villages of Mount Lebanon, particularly in the current districts of Batroun and Kesrouwan.

Joseph Delore (1873-1944) consecrated his life in running, organizing and supplying 42 primary schools, serving about 1,800 kids and taken care of by 47 teachers, recruited in the remote towns.

The Jesuit priest Delore was born in Limonest (Lyon district in France) and joined the Jesuit congregation at Ghazir (Lebanon) in 1891.

He spent 4 years in Cairo (1895-99) and was consecrated priest in 1907.

Back to Ghazir until WWI broke and Delore enlisted as military nurse in the French army.

Delore didn’t witness the famine calamity that harvested a third of the population in the two aforementioned districts, but he already sensed the miseries of the people before the war broke up and tried hard to warn the missionaries to sending more fund and more supplies to the remote villages in Mount Lebanon.

For the remaining of his life, Delore dedicated his time, energy and sleepless nights to running the little schools. Actually, many of these schools were funded by benefactors that Delore was in contact with them, and kept their names and addresses secret from the Jesuit congregation.

Delore visited all these schools on foot, and when a mule was used, it was to carry supplies like books, notebooks, cloths, shoes… and stuff for religious ceremonies. He carried two bags over his shoulders, one bag in leather and the other one in cloth.

He ceaselessly walked treacherous paths and in high altitudes, in warm and cold weather, were he could encounter wolves, hyenas… Luckily, he was never seriously injured or broke a bone.

His visits were to surprise the teachers and the students and check if the schools are meticulously run and controlled.

Delore had no secretary, and used no typewriters or copiers.

All his missives and letters  were handwritten and classified (Read, reviewed, responded to, seen, finished with…). Any researcher would need the patience of Job to untie the parcels and unfold letters within larger envelops…He did all the wrapping of parcels by himself and all the accounting…

In order to recruit teachers, Delore submitted them to a series of exams.

With all his dedication to learn the Arabic language and the local dialects, he failed to communicate in the local languages.

An artist who drew his portrait 4 years before Delore’s death, described him as someone with a “central idea’ that no one could deter him from pursuing.  Delore was still svelte, alert, an ascetic face, the forehead ravaged by deep rides.

Delore never slept on a bed and used public phones instead of the one that the congregation installed in his room.

It was a habit for Delore to confess everyone he met on his path, and he confessed 5 times a day to the clergy in the villages so that to encourage them to confess to him.

This is a passage from Delore diary after he returned from WWI to Lebanon:

“I climbed for 3 hours to the village of Hommairah overlooking river Ibrahim. All the people attended the evening mass and confessed.

I witnessed the same religious zeal at Sannoun. In these two villages, only 100 of the 270 inhabitants survived the Great Famine (1915-1918) and the houses were in a crumbling condition. My third station was at Michene whose poor church is dedicated to St. George. I resumed my trip to Machnaka and found 3 sculpted steles: One to Adonis, one to Astarte and the third representing the King, Queen and Son.

I descended to Farhet where only 70 of the original 300 survived the famine. Even the Metwalis (Moslem Shia) of about 200 homes demanded a school for girls. A school for girls will serve 10 other villages, including Hosoun…”

Note 1:  This is a quick review of “The Little Schools” of Mount Lebanon, edited and arranged by Levon Nordiguian. All the black and white photos were taken by Joseph Delore, including aerial pictures of cities such as Beirut, Jounieh, Homs, Hama…

It is striking to see all these photos of student kids of the period (1910-1944) in their homemade garment, the kinds of photos that grand moms looked like. Many came to the school, an annex to the church, barefooted and threadbare tunics.

It would be an excellent project or thesis to revisit these villages, strong with the photos, and investigate how many graduated and how their offspring fared in the second half of the century.

Note 2: In the district of Batroun you had the schools in Kfar Abida, Smar Jbeil, Zane, Abdilleh, Toula, Bejjeh, Ghalboun, Abaydate, Lehfed, Jaj, Tartej, Bchaaleh, Douma, Kartaba, Akoura…

In the district of Kesrouwan you have the schools in Halat, Jezayer, Aqaibeh, Bouwar, Safra, Tabarja, Ghazir, Jounieh, Haret Sakhr, Ghosta, Chananiir,, Dlepta, Jdaidet Ghazir, Fatka, Ghodress, Nammoura, Ghbaleh, Bez3el, Bir el Hait, Ya7choush, Chouwan,  Mcheteh, Nahr Dahab, Chahtoul, Hiyata, Kfar Debyene, Meyrouba, Hrajel, Faraya…

Note 3: Father Maurice de Frenon described the villages in his book “Visit of the schools in Lebanon 1937)

” Smar Jbeil with its citadel and old church… Abdilleh with its crumbling houses and falling in ruin after the Great Famine (1915-1918), Jaj, both well-off and miserable, Tartej with poor houses and dirt roofs and savage kids in tatered cloth running after their goats, Bchaaleh where young girls work the “broderies and dantelles”… Douma, a Greek orthodox town, comfortably settled amid a green amphitheater and feeric red tiled homes…

The kids in the Metwali towns (meaning the Moslem Shiaa in Kesrouwan) throw stones at passing cars… And way up, two towns: Kartaba welcoming visitors in modern European hotels and Akoura that remained intact from civilization at the feet of mountains…”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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