Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘mount lebanon

Consolidation of the kingdom. From Rainbow over the Levant

Note: Re-edit of a chapter of my novel posted in 2008 and set in the 15th century Mount Lebanon “Consolidation of the kingdom”

Antoun had a few rudimentary ideas concerning the organization of the social fabric but he lacked reprieves for consolidating his hold on power.

Fortunately, the new leader had good qualities of listening carefully to suggestions and delegating authorities for matters considered not to affect directly his grip on power.

Miriam Najjar was an excellent counselor and was motivated to enlarge her knowledge and participate in the decision units.  She suggested that one priority was to establishing elementary schools in every town and argued that without a learned youth the future of the regime would be totally dependent on foreign experts who would deplete the treasury.

She advanced the concept that relying on the know-how of other nations was the main reason why so many dynasties had died out or been replaced by dynasties elevated from mercenaries who did not care for the well-being and stability of the societies they governed.

However, there was the realization, experienced by most families living in high altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level, of the high mortality rate in extended families during the winter season that lasted five months.

Many kids died from suffocation, pulmonary diseases, and contagious illnesses.

Psychological disorders lead to brutal physical behaviors from close contact in unfit environmental conditions.

At the time, and for long time afterwards, homes were simply of a single room. The door was the only opening to fresh air.  Around ten people on average crowded that cloistered unique room for the duration of winter.

As was the custom, large families usually dedicated their second or third sons to the clergy’s institutions to become priests and a few daughters to turning nuns. Thus, to avoid feeding extra mouths and making more space for the other members of the family, many kids were lent to work for free in return for shelter and food and some education during the harsh season.

To return the favor for the outlawed peasants, it was decided that intern or boarding schools be erected for girls and boys, separately and where children of ages ranging from nine to thirteen would dwell in for 5 months from mid November to mid April.

Boarding schools

The first boarding school was established in Baskinta and demonstrated in its first year that mortality was drastically reduced in winter when the number of family members was cut in half within their reduced dwellings.

Consequently, this facility provided during the winter season education and healthier quarters for children and lent longevity to the extended family members.

Nuns and monks would run these schools in the beginning until a new generation of trained and learned lay administrators and educators took over gradually.

The teaching was traditional the first two years until tighter administration and teaching procedures were enacted.

A single instructor perched on a cushioned flat stone faced half circles of students sitting on the ground and was responsible for all the beginners in the reading class, regardless of the students’ age and gender.

The master’s long-reaching stick would not discriminate inattentive heads. Heavy physical punishments were the lot of free spirits who dared stand for their rights or argued boldly.

A few families would even worry if their kids were not physically disciplined as signs of careless and apathetic behavior on the instructor’s part in guiding the learning progress of their kids.

Families would rather go and visit their children at school on Christmas vacation and stay with them for a couple of days benefiting from warmer lodging in barns and healthier food varieties.

Christmas was a happy period for everyone in the school where children would get busy building mock-up houses, trees, animals and figurines for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi kings and presenting homemade gifts to their parents in return for assorted delicacies.

A typical day at boarding schools started at 6 a.m. followed by house cleaning, chicken feeding, cow milking, kitchen food preparation, and carrying necessary supplies for the day. At 7:30 mass and breakfast.

Classes for reading and writing in both Arabic an Aramaic languages (language of the land) and basic arithmetic would begin at 8:30 and end at 12:30 for lunch.

A short recess, then off to working in the artisanal shops of carpentry, pottery, glass painting, iron forging, cloth making, glass blowing and farm tending until 4 p.m.  The children would then head to the supervised study lounge until dusk, followed by diner and Vesper prayer.

By 7pm everybody was already in bed in order to save on candles and oil consumption.

Children less than eleven years of age would sleep ten in a room on hay stacks with spreads of goat skin. The older ones would sleep seven in a room.

It was not the sleeping quarters that mattered for the kids but a larger freedom to move around and be outside during the day with three fulfilling meals.

Meat was scarce but the kids were frequently fed “kebbe nayyeh” for Sunday’s lunch and eggs with “kaorma” for Saturday’ breakfast and tabbouli or mjadara on Fridays.

The usual staples were cereals, beans, crushed wheat, lentils, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, soup and plenty of breads. Fruits were a delicacy, especially apples which could be stored. Sometimes, apricot and blueberry jams; and more often molasses and “rahat el halkoum”.

Most of the toys and game equipments were homemade.

They used to fabricate rectangular flat wood plates, mark a number of 3 decimals on it and a string to attach around the forehead.  They divided themselves in two groups and scattered in the woods hiding their numbers on tree trunks.  If the enemy guessed the hidden number attached to the front head then the opposite member was out of the game until everyone in one team was out.

With time, many of these masks would become marked one way or another and the unfortunate wearers soon found themselves guessed out immediately, no matter how tightly they hid their front head closely to a tree trunk.

They also made rudimentary balls and divided themselves into two teams:  the member hit by the thrown ball was “killed” and transferred to the opposite line unless he caught the ball and then the thrower was considered eliminated.

They fabricated backgammon and tic tac toe gizmos and the like games.

The most rewarding type of equipment were slingshots, wooden swords and arches. The kids would go out hunting rabbits and squirrels within a short range because wild beasts were commonly found such as hyenas, wild boars, and wild dogs.

This system of schooling was expanded to towns at lower altitude for a shorter winter season of only 4 months.

Somehow, a few of these schools constructed annexes around their grounds with the help of the military garrisons close by and were transformed into major production centers for army supplies and exported objects.

In the winter season, skilled families of the interned children would manufacture goods and help in the maintenance of the institution, while in the remaining of the year the school and its annexes would be invaded by skilled workers occupying the living quarters for 6 months.

There were cases of greedy administrators in tandem with local officials abusing children as slave workers and delaying the release of the able and skilled children.

Families got wind of these awful practices and stricter monitoring procedures of these institutions were established.  Families were encouraged to resume sending their children to the nearest parochial schools for a couple of hours during the busy seasons in return for preferential winter work facilities at the boarding schools.

These boarding schools became popular and families from afar trekked their children to Baskinta until new boarding schools were available and mushroomed to every district in Mount Lebanon.

This system of boarding schools developed into more professional institutions :  Overseas parents inscribed their children for a substantial sum of money in return for lengthier educational periods and better accommodations for housing different age groups of students.

In the newer more professional boarding schools with diverse ethnic and religious affiliations there occurred a few religious frictions among the adult students without any repercussions to the children who found happiness and joy in being together, energetic and secure in their daydreams.

Like most institutions in the Levant, the boarding schools experienced traumatic and feverish times but never took roots to grow and then suffered sudden death.

After lengthy discussions, Antoun agreed with Miriam that it would be an excellent decision to offer incentives to municipalities for arranging educational facilities.

Instead of villages constructing more churches, the central government offered to incur half the expenses for constructing schools, the wages of the instructors and lunch for all the students.  In return for free education for a 4-year period, the graduates would refund part of the expenses after securing better employment.

This edict would be formalized so that no State investment would be contemplated without local and regional investments and participation.  The rational was that if investments were shared by the well-to-do inhabitants who tend to mind a return on investments then, proper and timely execution of projects were more secured since it is founded on individual interest.

Within a year Antoun appointed Miriam Najjar as his education counselor. Mariam encouraged many visiting scholars to settle in Mount Lebanon and more opportunities for various disciplines sprouted in education that required specialized higher educational institutions.

 

 

 

Genocide has deep causes: The catalyst is a major war to ignite the massacre

And why Germany committed this mass ethnic cleansing genocide on Jews, Ukrainians, Polish people, Tsigans…?

Because the colonial victors in WWI  refused to set up an international tribunal for crimes against humanity:

1. On the genocide of the Armenians planned by Germany in 1915 and executed by the Turks and Kurds

2. On the famine hecatomb in Mount Lebanon (1915-18), willed by Germany after a visit of its monarch  in 1909

This post focuses on the genocide of the Armenians and Lebanese.

But prior to that, let us refresh our memories of the colonial genocide before the cases of the Armenians and Lebanese people:

1. The massive killing of the people in the Congo (5 million) by colonial Belgium

2. the genocide on Indonesians by colonial Netherland

3. The genocide on people in Australia, India and New Zealand by the British Empire

 

And Hitler to wonder in 1939: “Who remembers the massacre of the Armenians?”

Actually, the Nuremberg Tribunal focused on the latest of genocide. The colonial powers executed a dozen of those they had no interest in using for their talent and professionalism, particularly in the development of weapons of mass destruction, torture techniques, sciences and spying.

The Nuremberg Tribunal didn’t brought to trial

1. the genocide in Libya and Ethiopia by Italy under Mussolini

The Nuremberg Tribunal didn’t convince anyone with strong links to former colonial powers that there can be serious consequences of committing genocide. Let’s start with:

1. genocide in Korea by Japan, China, Soviet Union and USA

2. genocide in China by Japan, Soviet Union and Mao Tse Tong

3. genocide in Viet Nam by the French and USA

4. genocide in Algeria by the French

5. genocide in Rwanda

6. genocide in Cambodia

7. genocide in Afghanistan

8. genocide in Iraq and then Syria

Shall we go on?

This post will focus on the two genocide of Armenians and Lebanese of Mount Lebanon.

When WWI started, Germany was the main western nation dealing with Turkey, in trade, military cooperation and training, building infrastructure (The Istanbul-Hejaz railway for example)

By 1906, the British Empire realized that it was unable to prevent Germany becoming the second economical power behind the USA or overtaking German external trade around the world in quality or price.

England decided that its best strategy was a preemptive war on Germany by blocking the maritime ports with which Germany imported and exported goods.

All the diplomacy of England was to ally France ( the largest land army) and neutralize Russia (the main trade outlet for Germany for many centuries) in the event Germany wage an all out war.

Germany had no qualm with France and Russia because it benefitted from these 2 countries.

Ironically, it is France and Russia that first declared war on Germany.

As Russia declared war on Germany, and since the Armenians in Turkey steadfastly and consistently supported and aided Imperial Russia frequent incursions into the Ottoman Empire since the 19th century, Germany planned the Armenian genocide and the new  colonial national zeal of the Young Turk junta systematically executed the plan, and in a very German professionalism.

It is to be noted that the Ottoman Empire was the most lenient and tolerant among all empires relative to its varieties of ethnic and religious diversities.

Germany finally decided to agree that it shared in the genocide of the Armenians by the planning of this mass murder. 

The roots for this hatred of the Turks against the Armenians was there, and it needed a new Nationalist feeling of the 20th century to go all the way according to the German decision.

The turks executed the plan in the large cities while the Kurds were assigned this job in the far fetched country side.

Germany was also behind punishing Lebanon and committed this genocide famine hecatomb between 1915-18

For example, the city of Kars in Turkey, on the eastern side of the Anatolia Plateau (Anadol), is built by the river Kars and is a must cross location on the routes from Georgia, Tabriz (Iran), the Caucasus and Tiflis. I urge my readers to recollect other cursed cities through history.

Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus form one homogeneous geographic area in economy, culture, and social communication and trades.

The Armenians on both sides preferred to pay allegiance to Christian Russia and wished that Russia would grant them administrative autonomy in the Caucasus.

The Moslems on both sides paid allegiance to the Moslem Ottoman Empire.

The triangle of the current States of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were the scenes of major battle fields and invasions through history and is still a hot area till now.

The Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk published “Snow” that described the calamities suffered by the inhabitants of the Kars region.  The Armenian people lived in that region for a thousand years and then many waves of immigrants and refugees from persecutions flocked to it.

The Karss region hosted people from the Empires of Persia, Byzantium and then Moguls, Georgians, Kurds, and Cherkessk.

In the 17th century, the Karss region was predominantly of Moslems and then Armenians were second in numbers.

The absolute monarchic Russian Empire vied for this region since the 18th century.

In 1827, Russia entered Karss and chased out over 27,000 Moslems and transferred 45,000 Armenians to this city from Iran and the Anatolian Plateau.

The city of Yerevan (Capital of the current State of Armenia) that was mostly of Iranians was transformed demographically in 1827.

In every Russian invasion to the Karss region, the Russian troops could rely on the Armenian population for auxiliary regiments, logistics, and intelligence services.

As the Russian troops vacated the region in 1829, over 90,000 Armenians fled with the Russians fearing well deserved persecution.

During the Crimea War, which confronted Russia against the combined alliance of Britain, France, and the Ottoman, the Russians put siege on Karss in 1855 for many months and all the Ottoman army within the city was massacred.  The Paris treaty of 1855 forced the Russians to vacate the Karss region. The Ottoman troops retaliated heavily on the Armenians.

In 1859, the Cherkessk, lead by their leader Shamel, revolted against the Russians and Shamel was defeated; many Christian Russian Orthodox were transferred to Karss to replace the Moslem Cherkessk.  The same eviction process befell three quarter of the Moslems of Abkhazia in 1867.

Thus, in less than 30 years, the Russian Empire changed the demographics of the Caucasus from mostly Moslems to mostly Christians.

Over 1, 200,000 Moslems were forced to transfer to other regions; 800,000 of the Moslems settled in the Ottoman Empire. 

In 1877, the Russians amassed troops on the border with Karss; Sultan Abdel Hamid preempted the invasion by massacring the Armenians on ground that they will inevitably aid the Russians.

After 93 days of war, the Russians entered Karss and a pogrom on the Moslems proceeded for many days.

The treaty of San Estephanos relinquished the region to the Russian Empire. The Russians built a new city south of the city of Karess where the Emperor Alexander III met with his concubines and hunted.

In the next 43 years, the Armenians harassed the Moslems of this region and thousand had to flee.

In retaliation, Sultan Abdel Hamid formed in 1891 a special regiment of Kurdish cavalry with the purpose of harassing the Armenians of the Karss region and the pogrom around Lake Van raised an outcry in Europe.

During the First World War, the Armenians again aided the Russians and formed semi-regular armies to fight the Ottoman Empire.

On both sides, Armenian troops were under either the flag of Turkey or of Russia.

As the genocide was decided in April 1915, the Turks disbanded 125,000 armed Armenian troops and transferred them to dig ditches and construction works.

Consequently, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire launched the genocide plan against the Armenians and thousands died of famine during the long march out of Turkey.

The Armenians settled in Constantinople (Istanbul), and the people in the Adana region shared in the mass persecution; only the Armenians in the Caucasus, within Russia, were spared.

The British occupied the Karss region in 1919 and gave some authority to the Armenians who gathered arms from the Moslems and gave them to the Armenians and another round of harassment and massacres took place.

The Turkish General Mustafa Kemal re-occupied the Karss region in 1920 after defeating the Armenian army: the Bolsheviks were then allied to the new Turkish Republic.

The Russians transferred the Armenians from the region of Patum to Yerevan.

In 1927, all the properties of the Armenians in Karss were confiscated.

The Armenians were robbed of a homeland because Turkey ceased Cyprus to Britain in exchange of guaranteeing the Karss region to Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal (Attaturk) also negotiated a political deal with mandated power France over Syria to relinquish the Syrian region of Alexandrite to Turkey, setting the premises for future regional feuds.

Nowadays, there are no Armenians in Karss; the imposing buildings of Tsarist Russia are government Administrative offices; a vast villa of 40 rooms is transformed into hospital, and a Jewish museum.

An entire century of struggles, massacres, harassment,  genocides, and useless hate to their neighbors in order to gain self-autonomy rewarded the Armenians nothing.

They had to wait for the break down of the Soviet Union to enjoy the Armenian State that is totally dependent in its economy on the neighboring States.

Kosovo, Kashmir, Jerusalem, Gaza, and Palestine are current examples of lost opportunities for stability and peace.

As for the case of the famine hecatomb in Mount Lebanon read:

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/famine-hecatomb-in-lebanon-1915-18/

Why and How the Lebanese Jews immigrated to Israel?

By 1920, and during the French mandate over Lebanon, the Jews enjoyed equal rights except in securing parliamentary seats. The French established the Alliance schools, specifically for the Jews, as it did in all its colonies since 1870.

In 1911, an “Ottoman firman” officially acknowledge the Jewish sect and a legislation was signed for a Jewish council.

As Israel was acknowledge a State by the UN in 1948 by a majority of one vote, many Jews from Arabic States and Iran flocked to Lebanon as immigrants, settled and started a new life.

The Jews in Lebanon published a daily called “Israeli World” with editor Eliaho Mann and was renamed “Peace” in 1948. Toufic Mezrahi published a French magazine called “Trade in the Levant”.

The last Hakham, Sho7oud Shram left Lebanon in 1978: He had succeeded to Hakham Yacoob Atiya. Yacoob Miselton was appointed Grand Hakham in 1908.

The first Keniss (Temple) was built in 1890 in Aley and another one in Bhamdoun in 1915. The Sassoon family built the Keniss of Wadi Bu Jmil in 1920. The Syrian Jews, mainly coming from Aleppo, built a Keniss on George Picot Street, and those from Spanish origin had their own Keniss.

The Jewish community established an association called “Mitan Ba” to aid the poorer Jews. The other women caritatif association “A Drop of Milk” catered to the children studying the Talmud.

Most Jewish associations secured Jewish husbands to the Jewish girls and extended financial aids for the wedding and the various expenses. If the girl was from a wealthy family and was beautiful too, the dote was lowered.

The sport club “Maccabees” used to challenge the other Lebanese clubs in Beirut.

One common denominator for the immigration of the Jews was that they were done in complete secrecy:  No one of their closest friends had a hint of their departure. Though the internal security services had all the intelligence of which family is leaving, when and how. There were close cooperation with the Israeli agents in Lebanon in charge of the transfer of the Jews to Cyprus first and then to Israel, Europe, USA or Latin America

One of the Hakham of the Jewish Synagogue refused to bury two Jews from the Mezrahi and Al Manne because they married their daughters to Christians. The Moslem Abu Mahmoud, who lived in Abu Jamil quarter and owned a small shop there, contributed for the burial ceremony of his two Jewish friends

One of the Hakham was the indirectly appointed person to supervise the slaughtering of chicken, cows and sheep in the official slaughter House in Beirut. He would go early in the morning, pray of the potential animals and make sure they are killed “halal” style.

The Moslem in Beirut didn’t mind buying meat from any butcher in the Capital, knowing that the Hakham supervised the halal meat reaching the shops.

The Jew Elia Bassal (Onion) was the commander (Commissar) of the internal security in Beirut. He retired, got paid on time every month and then disappeared.

The Jews who had public positions were contacted by Israel to gather intelligence pieces. These Jews were not harassed even after claiming at work that “The Jews are the elect people…”

On Wednesdays, a US ship would embark the Jews to Cyprus before and after Israel preemptive war of 1967.

There were many Jewish physicians and pharmacists. A few treated patients for free such as Dr. Shams and the Lebanese communities went to their burial ceremony.  It is recounted that one patient came in to the clinic of Shams and sounded his pocket-full of piasters. Shams said: “You shot yourself in the foot. Now empty all your money on the table

In general, the Jewish youth joined the communist party when engaged politically. The adult Jews allied with the fascist ultra right Christian Maronite Phalanges party (Kataeb) on the ground that they are protecting them. The Phalanges Party received Jewish funds during election periods.

The funny part is that the neighborhood knew the Lebanese Jew agents to Israel, particularly when the Lebanese officials met with them on specific nights.

The immigrated Jews or more appropriately the transferred Jews (as the ones from Ethiopia) could correspond with their friends in Lebanon if they chose to. They sent letters to Cyprus and the Israeli agency there would change the envelop. The Jews rarely kept contacts with their Lebanese “friends”

Apparently, Jewish girls who could not secure a husband were wed to their uncles (the mother side).

In June 1982, Israel put siege around West Beirut. It cut off water supply, electricity and the entering of food supplies. Potable water bottles were emptied for those coming in west Beirut.

As the armies of Ariel Sharon entered Beirut, many Israeli soldiers who lived in Lebanon visited their homes in Jeeps. They had their rifles and donned sun-glasses.  Shamelessly, they made sure to blurt out to their Lebanese playground companions “Stupid Arabs

These Israeli soldiers used to spend their summer “vacation” in Israel to get military training and resume their study in Lebanon.

Note 1: Extracted from Nada Abd Samad Arabic book “Stories of Jews who lived in Wadi Abu Jmil quarter” in Beirut.

Note 2: Farid Azarout published a French article “The Jews of lebanon” on Internet offering information on the various Jewish associations in Lebanon

Note 3: Mount Lebanon was the ideal refuge for all the persecuted “unorthodox” minority religious sect. Before the year 1,000 AC, most of the inhabitants of current Lebanon were of two kinds: Christian Orthodox affiliated to Byzantium and the various Shia sects who were persecuted by the Sunnis affiliated to the Caliphs.

In the year 1,000 the current Christian sect called Maronites fled from Syria to the rugged mountains in north Lebanon after their persecution by Byzantium as heretics.

The Caliph Mou3awiya in Damascus transferred Sunnis to the major ports in Lebanon in order to safeguard the sea from the frequent Byzantium incursions.

The Jews have occupied the Chouf mountains and settled in Deir al Kamar. They gradually moved to the port of Saida for two main reasons:

1. Saida was the main sea port, and

2. The Caravans of pilgrims to Jerusalem assembled in Saida before resuming their trip.

“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…”

Famine Hecatomb in Lebanon (1915-18)

Lebanon had a calamitous decade (1909-1918).

In 1909, waves of deadly diseases such as typhus, cholera, diphtheria… swept the cities and towns in current coastal Lebanon and in Mount Lebanon.

Many Lebanese, particularly Christians, immigrated. Their preferred destination was the USA and Egypt, but the ship captains would on many occasion drop the people in Africa and Latin America and telling them: “This is America

Linda Schatkowski Schilcher dissected the German and Austrian sources and achieves for her book “The Famine of 1915-18 in Greater Syria” and advanced the number of 500,000 victims of famine and related to famine in Syria and Lebanon, 200,000 of them died in Mount Lebanon, particularly in the districts of Byblos and Betroun and Tripoli.

For example, the village of Abdilleh lost 35% of its people and the town of Chabtine 63%.

How people die of Starvation?

“Due to absolute lack and bad quality of food, people experienced terrible feet swelling, and many fell exhausted on the roads, vomiting blood… The dead toddlers and kids were thrown with the garbage in the corners of the villages. Chariots collected them and dumped them in public ditches. These horror spectacles were observed in the villages of Bilad Jubeil and Bilad Batroun and the city of Tripoli…”

The Turkish feminist author Halide Edib wrote in her Memoirs: “The nights in Beirut were atrocious: You heard the whining and screaming of starved people “Ju3an, Ju3an” (I’m hungry, I’m famished)

Jubran Khalil Jubran wrote to Mary Haskell:

“The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation, and thousands are dying every single day. The same process happened with the Christian Armenians and applied to the Christians in Mount Lebanon…”

What were the main causes for this endemic famine?

1. Turkey had joined Germany in WWI on November of 1914, and France landed in a few Islands on the coast such as Arwad, and established a maritime blockade that secured that no foodstuff reach Lebanon and Syria.

2. General Jamal Pasha instituted an internal blockade of cereals to enter Mount Lebanon, particularly the Christian Maronite Canton (Kaemmakam) that included the current districts of Kesrowan and Betroun. Consequently, the Lebanese could not receive wheat and cereals from the district of Akkar and the Bekaa Valley.

Mind you that the people in Mount Lebanon relied on the grains from Akkar and the Bekaa for immediate need, but relied on the grain arriving from Syria for the winter reserves.

3. In April of 1915, the locusts ate the green and the dry (akhdar wa yabess) of the harvests and plants for 3 months.

4. The Turkish troops had already emptied the grain reserves of the Lebanese homes at the start of the war, and there were no ways to replenish any foodstuff.

5. The war lasted 4 years, but the Lebanese suffered an extra year of famine: 10,000 kids were roaming the roads at the end of 1918, begging for crumbs of bread

Famished people from the coastal towns thought that they might get some relief in the higher altitude regions (Jroud of Bilad Jubail and Bilad Betroun) and they died there. In a single town, over 3,800 of them were buried in a communal ditch because the town refused to bury them close to the churches of the town.

Najib Murad-Diyarbakri mentioned in his book “Sinine al Ghala” (Years of expensive prices) a Lebanese epitaph that read as a poem:

“They died from famine along the roads,

No father or mother or anyone to pity on them

We witnessed couples perishing from the cold

In this rough climate…

And not receiving absolution from a priest or anybody

The Drums of war are beating their sad rhythm

And the living people, wrapped in their shroud

Believing the war will not last a year…

Dear God, may this fifth year be the end of it”

Even in 1933, Charles Corm noted: “In a single afternoon, I counted 823 houses without roofs, doors and windows between Kesrowan and Betroun…”

Note 1: Even in August 7, 1914, the Jesuit priest Joseph Delore urged the Catholic Missions in “Immense material and morale distress in Lebanon” to quickly come to the rescue.

Note 2: Stories are still being circulated in my hometown of Beit-Chabab (Metn district) that a few amassed wealth during the war by hoarding properties in exchange of a loaf of bread. The contraband from Syria was in full swing, and those with connections reaped wealth from the miseries of the little hapless people…

Note 3: Official Lebanon is doping its hardest to bury this famine calamity, on the ground that it is a shame to mention people dying of hunger.  Instead, Official Lebanon celebrate the hanging of 6 Lebanese by Jamal Pasha as martyrs.

Note 4: A decade ago, I knew a wonderful elderly couple in Montgomery County, originally from Adbelli, and they were in fine physical health. Jean was recounting how the people in the town were expecting to see the bed sheet displayed in the morning, as they got married in the town. Elizabeth would have nothing of that nonsense, and the sheet was never displayed from the window to show any red blotches.

Note 5: The locust came on whatever was still edible after the Turkish army grabbed the harvest for its war front on the Suez Canal

Historical background: “Rainbow over the Levant”

Note: I decided to split the background chapter of my novel “Rainbow over the Levant” in two parts.

This novel has been published 5 years ago on my blog in serial chapters.

A quick summary of the history of this region, the Levant or Near East (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Turkey), starting two centuries preceding the fiction events of this novel, can shed a satisfactory understanding for the setting of this historical fiction around the last quarter of the 14thcentury AD.

The Mameluks’ Sultan Baybars of Egypt had dislodged the Christian Crusaders from every remaining city in the Near East in 1291. The chased out Crusaders forces were just holding on to the island of Cyprus.

The Caliphates of the Arab empire, who were virtual rulers in Baghdad since the 9th century, were restored to their virtual religious polarization in Cairo under the Mameluks’ hegemony.

The Crusaders from Christian Europe had been defeated previously in 1187 in a critical battle of Hittine in Palestine by Saladin who managed that feat after reigning as Sultan in both capitals of Cairo and Damascus.

To better comprehend the Levant history we need to stress on the facts that the entire region that composes the present States of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and even Iraq (from the 12th century onward) has been throughout its long history under the direct or indirect domination of empires in Iran, Turkey or Egypt.

The local Emirs or appointed governors paid tributes to one of these powerful centers in return to governing their internal affairs, participating in military campaigns and defending the political dominions and interests of the regional Great Sultans.  The reigning Sultan of Egypt had the upper hand in this period of the novel in the Near East region.

In the 10th century, two dynasties ruled part of the Middle East. In Egypt, the Shiite Moslem Fatimid dynasty, coming from Northern Africa established their Caliphate in Cairo and stretched its influence to Aleppo in Syria. Their successor, the Ayyubid Sunni Moslem dynasty, from Kurdish descent, displaced the Fatimid.

The Mamluks (the serfs who came to hold high political and military powers in the Ayyubid dynasty) rose to power and defeated the Mogul invasion in two crucial battles in Palestine in 1260 at Elbistan.

In Iran, the Seljuk dynasty stretched their empire to Samarqand, Bukhara, Khorassan, Afghanistan, part of Turkey, Syria and part of Lebanon. They fought the Crusaders in the Near East during most of their reign through the intermediary of their appointed “Atabeks” in Turkey and Syria.

The Seljuk dynasty was taken over by the Khowarasmi dynasty whose Sultans were at odd with the Caliphate of Baghdad and helped the hordes of Genghis Khan the Mogul, led by his son Holako, to enter and devastate Baghdad in 1258 which ended the Arabic Empire.

The Moguls established two Viceroys in Iraq, one at Mosul in the Northern part and the second in Baghdad for the Southern part of Iraq.  The Arabic Era that lasted for 5 centuries ended as a cultural and organizational influence. The Emirs in Palestine were generally affiliated to the Sultan of Egypt.  .

The societies in the Levant region have experienced a different level of organizational skills and the beginning of the application of the rudiment written rules of Laws from their interaction with the European Crusaders.  We don’t have much information about the status of Mount Lebanon in that period or about its Emirs, its social structure, its allegiances, its demographic constituency or its economic development.

We assume that the Crusaders left a strong impact on the inhabitants in Mount Lebanon which forced the Arab Emirs to start relocating many Arab tribes from Southern Iraq into the Mount Lebanon regions to counterbalance the Christian population.

Even before the advent of the Arabic Empire, Christian monasteries were numerous and spread out throughout the Near East and Iraq and occupied the top of mountains, hills, and the best areas near fresh water sources in the same fashion you notice them currently in Mount Lebanon.

The monks had their special chambers (kelayye) for retreats and prayers.  Monasteries were very prosperous and maintained exquisite gardens of fruit trees, flowers and vegetables and were well stocked in provisions from their land and donations of the faithful.

During the Arabic Empire, monasteries were required to set up annexes of hostels in order to receive weary travelers and to lodge and feed them.  Usually, the relatives of monks maintained these hostels.  Caliphs, Emirs, and well to do noblemen used to patronize the monasteries and spent days in these quiet domains to eat, drink local wine and beer and have great time away from the scrutiny of city dwellers.

The monasteries in the Levant suffered during the Crusaders’ period because of the bad manners of the European invaders, their robbery and plunder, but the monasteries in Iraq and Eastern Turkey were as prosperous as ever because the crusaders did not venture deep in the land of Arabic Empire.

Many castles were demolished during that bloody period, a few were partially rehabilitated, but a lot of reconstruction of war infrastructure was needed.  What is important to note is that wars were no longer waged using chars with spiked wheels that harvest feet or employed exotic animals such as elephants as during the Antiquity.

Canons of wars were not invented yet, except may be in remote China where they were used during the main ceremonies related to their standing emperors. Wars were still waged with infantry, cavalry and archers in the conventional ways. Newly designed catapults for throwing rocks at castles’ walls and entrances were in use by rich nations with well equipped and sophisticated armies.

The full metal armor used by the crusaders was reduced by the noblemen to a vest of meshed chains and a metal helmet: The climate may not have been suitable to European fashion, since we do enjoy at least 7 months of hot and dry seasons.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

May 2020
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