Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Letter from Lebanon--#47 A Wedding

I haven't been posting Rosie's "letters from Lebanon" for a while now... But since my words and sketches aren't flowing these days, I thought I would post the last letter I received from her.
The Letter is rather long, so for the convenience of readers here, and those who actually do like those letters, I separated it into 2 clear parts:
1- The Wedding, and 2- In Politics... That way you can read whichever part interests you most if you don't feel like reading the whole piece...

Dear Family and Friends,

This month I am going to try to restart the regular format of my Letter from Lebanon, by presenting both the cultural and political sections. I had dropped the cultural portion because the political upheaval in the country was, and frankly still is, so overwhelming. But this past weekend, we attended a wedding and this joyous occasion shook me up a bit out of the doldrums, making me realize that despite the tragedies that beset Lebanon and the region, life does go on. The living must live.

Letter from Lebanon--#47 A Wedding


The wedding took place in Mhaidseh, a small mountain village where my husband’s family originally came from. The village is their hometown, and that means, you go back to your origins to get married. The church where the couple married was built by my husband’s great grandfather. And is the same church where we were to have been married over 21 years ago had not a sniper during Lebanon’s civil war killed his cousin, whom my husband had chosen to be his best man. The small church is clad with the white chipped stone famous for its use on so many of the older homes, churches and monasteries and which make the architecture in the country so beautiful. The tall steeple with its large bell is still rung manually, as young men, and sometimes older ones, too, vie on how high and vigorously they can jump up and then forcefully pull down the long thick hemp rope to ring resoundingly the bell.

Compared to other Greek Orthodox churches, which usually have an overabundance of icons and gold, this church was quite simple having only a minimum of gold. A red carpet stretches from the outside steps of the church up to the altar. Beautiful bouquets of white roses, chrysanthemums and lilies perched on tall cast iron stands line both sides of the red carpet. Soft flowing drapes of sheer golden chiffon, to match the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, link the flower stands pew to pew. Chandeliers, in forms of lit candles, representing the original method of lighting, add a warm glow for the evening wedding ceremony and present a sharp contrast to the modern high intensity light used by the cameramen.

In typical Lebanese tradition, the groom waits for his bride at the entrance to the church. Some guests were already sitting inside the church, but many followed the couple as they entered the church after the flower girl, ring bearer and the bridesmaids. There usually is only one bridesmaid, the maid of honor, but because the bride had two sisters, they both participated in the wedding. The bride wears a veil but it does not cover her face. After the vows, the groom does not “kiss the bride.” There is no “And you may now kiss the bride.” The couple remains at the altar for photos and more video, which have been taken prolifically before and during the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, the guests drive to the reception which is usually held in a large restaurant or hotel. The guests are seated at assigned tables. Hors d’oeuvres and even the main meal may be served before the arrival of the newlyweds, which is often one or two hours after the guests have been sitting and eating. The newlyweds are often “introduced” by a “zaffeh.” A dance group wearing the costumes, and presenting the dance and songs of the traditional Lebanese folklore. The show lasts about a half hour or so before the couple follows and joins the troupe in the dance. The guests quickly join in and both the bride and groom are soon hoisted on the shoulders of young, strong men, while they continue the dance floating above the crowd. Many dance, while others continue their meal. The couple is given short reprieves where they inhale a couple of bites, before the dancing resumes or before they go from table to table to personally greet their guests. At the cake ceremony, they cut the cake together using a long saber. Some follow the western tradition of tossing the bouquet to the single girls, and the garter to the single men. And then, more dancing. You’ve never seen a happier, more jovial group of people until you’ve seen the Lebanese dance, young and old alike as they do the Lebanese dabkeh or the belly dance, which unlike the perception in the West is really just a traditional folk dance, performed by all ages.


The situation in Lebanon is status quo; I mean status stop.
The only thing moving these days is a lot of hot air as the politicians lob insults and accusations at each other. It is quite a pathetic situation as an already troubled economy sinks further into an abyss. They cannot seem to see beyond the depth of their pockets.

Other than that, people here are constantly talking about a new war.
We all know that there will not be another evacuation should there be a war. The major concern is that the United States will hit Iran; many believe it is more a question of when not if. And then when that does happen, against whom will Iran decide to retaliate? Israel? And then Hezbollah gets sucked in again? And another attack by Israel into Lebanon? Or will Iran hit Saudi Arabia, the bastion of American military installations? Will Syria come to “defend” its ally Iran by attacking Israel? If the United States thinks that it can attack Iran without repercussions throughout the Middle East, they will have once again disillusioned themselves and the American people. This is a very serious issue here. We are already talking amongst ourselves how we will plan our summers. Stay here? Travel? If so, when? If Lebanon is hit, the airport will be shut down immediately; the airport would be a first strike like last time. If Syria participates, its airport would close; with no evacuations by boat this time around, those in Lebanon will be stuck. We cannot get to Jordan by land without passing through Syria. While people in the United States are concerned about the price of gasoline, some of us over here, are wondering if we will become trapped, and be faced with gasoline, diesel and food shortages if a war ensues.

Several weeks ago the Israeli press announced that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert had planned many months in advance for the onslaught into Lebanon that had started on July 12, 2006. It also has become clear that the United States purposely did not stop the war when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had come out to meet with the Israelis and Lebanese in the first ten days of the war. The United States former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton stated in a BBC radio interview in March of this year that he was “damned proud of what we did’ to prevent an early ceasefire”1 during Israel’s assault on Lebanon last summer. None of this is news to the Lebanese or those of us who were here during the war; it is only news that it has become officially public.

I wonder how many of you know what is the “Israeli factor?” I can tell you that every single United States presidential candidate knows what it is.Basically, it is an indicator to see how “friendly” the candidate is to Israel and its interests. When asked what makes a candidate "good for Israel," the answers are revealing: "He can deal in a realistic way with the conflicts of Middle East; he will not be overly susceptible to world opinion; he is ready to use force when necessary; he knows Israel and its problems; he will make sure not to pressure Israel into making concessions that will leave it with indefensible borders; he will take into account the interests of Israel as he formulates his Middle East policy; he is emotionally attached to Israel and the things it represents, and is pro-Zionist; he is well connected within the American Jewish community." Nobody thought that a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict might make a candidate "good" for Israel?”2 You can go to, the online version of the Israeli newspaper and type in “Israeli Factor” to find it. Those candidates with the highest score rate the friendliest to Israel. The score may change overtime depending on what the candidate says or does. Why is there no “Canadian Factor” or “Japan Factor” or “Mexican Factor?’ Does any of this ring right? Why is it that Israel must be at the center and focus of American foreign policy, which if anyone has noticed is not working. A recent survey conducted by Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows that the majority of the countries, except Israel and the Philippines (no surprise, here of course), do not condone the foreign policies of the United States. “There’s clearly a trend in terms of deepening negative attitudes to the US in how it executes foreign policy,” said Christopher Whitney, one of the chief coordinators of the poll. The most stark results were those showing a lack of trust that the US would act responsibly and a sense that it had overreached on the global stage. More than three out of four Americans think that their country tends to take on the role of international enforcer more than it should.3

On a final note, I would like to offer my condolences to the people of the United States and especially the family and friends of those who were brutally murdered at Virginia Tech. It is awful when terrorism hits a campus. Oh, I mean massacre. That is the word they used in all the media wasn’t it? Amazing how one word can change people’s perceptions of an action. But in reality, it was terrorism. It’s just that he was an immigrant from South Korea, which is a country that is an ally to the United States. Not an immigrant from Lebanon or Egypt or Jordan or Syria. He was not an Arab. If he were, I doubt they would have looked beyond his nationality to see his troubled past or analyze the whys and wherefores. We would not have seen psychologist after psychologist give their expert opinion on why this young man did what he did or that studies have shown with other killers that there is something physically amiss in their brain. Nor did we hear about the Egyptian who was killed as he saved lives. (Three Arabs were killed in the rampage.) Yet we heard profusely about the elderly Romanian-born professor who was a holocaust survivor. No one denies his heroism; yet why is an Arab’s heroism conveniently overlooked? This is how American people’s views are made for them as facts are “conveniently” slighted.

News Update:
After I had written the above, around 10:00 p.m. Thursday night news reporters announced that two young Lebanese who had been kidnapped the day before were killed that night. One was a young man of 25 years the other only a boy of 12 years. This is the first time in all of Lebanon’s war history that a child was taken and purposely killed. All sides had condemned the kidnapping and all sides have condemned the killing. All we know so far is that the two were Sunnis by religion but affiliated politically to the Druze camp of Walid Jumblatt. No one has yet claimed responsibility. The government announced that all schools and universities would be closed on Friday. I wanted to pick up my daughter from her dorm Thursday night because I was afraid that army roadblocks would be up in the morning. Well, we did not have to wait until then. Large and well-armed roadblocks were posted at major sections throughout the city. We went through three of them on our way to get her Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. She told us all the dorm residents had been in the lounge and that the girls were all upset. It’s nice to have her home safe with us. The funerals took place on Friday, with no incident. Yet, who knows what is looming for the future?

Back to the doldrums...

An American in Lebanon

1 and 2: AAI report March 27, 2007
3 Arab News April 19, 2007

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At 9:41 PM, Blogger Coco said...

hey _Z, I didn't real the political part of the letter but the wedding story is amazing! Planning my own wedding in Lebanon, this came to be very useful. I also forwarded it to my Canadian sister-in-law (brother's wife) in Halifax who enjoyed it a lot too.

Thank you and thanks to Rosie :)

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Lirun said...

i hope we dont have any more wars..


At 5:50 PM, Blogger Red said...

It is good to have a different perspective on the Virginia Tech massacre. I never thought about it from that point of view, but of course Rosie is right: had the culprit been a Muslim student, the whole episode would have been called an attack on the state and not "dismissed" (bad choice of word, but you know what I mean) as the actions of a madman.

The same is true of Librescu's heroic status. But then the US is so blatantly pro-Israel, my jaw would have dropped had the media highlighted anybody else's (let alone an Arab's) heroic actions.

At 5:25 PM, Blogger _z. said...

:S tell me about it.

hope so too brother.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger _z. said...

Absolutely red, that's nowadays the curse of being born... in the Arabic speaking world.


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