On Raï’s Visit to Jerusalem: Get Off His Back

Rai Goes to Israel

Here’s a round-up of your current “it” Lebanese news.

  • Patriarch Raï is visiting occupied Palestine/Israel/Whatever on May 25th.
  • Some Lebanese are not happy about his upcoming visit.
  • Those Lebanese are beginning to hint at possible noxious ramifications of the patriarch’s visit to Israel.
  • Those Lebanese have begun to group Lebanese Christians in the cliche and stereotypical war-time view of them being constantly in bed with Israel.
  • Despite the uproar, Raï is adamant on visiting Jerusalem and receiving Pope Francis as the head of the Maronite congregation there.
  • Raï called upon those who are pissed to get over themselves.

I wondered a while back how is it that the Maronite Patriarch cannot visit his Maronite congregation in what is now Israeli territories. Which precedes which, the fact that the patriarch is always Lebanese due to most Maronites being Lebanese or the fact that the patriarch is a man of religion, regardless of what one has to think about his or any other religion?

Today, it seems that the latter is taking precedence. The Maronite Church is keeping the details of the visit as secret as possible. We know that the Patriarch will not be using his Lebanese passport, obviously. We know he will be using a special Vatican-issued permit. We know he will be going to Jerusalem from Cyprus. We know him going there is to receive Pope Francis in the Maronite archdioceses of which he is responsible.

What we know as well is that it is the obligation of the Maronite Patriarch to visit the many archdiocese over which he precedes at least once every five years. The Maronite people who happen to reside in Israel/Occupied Palestine have never had an official visit from the head of the Church they believe in. Such a visit is long-overdue.

To the rest of Lebanese, fear not. None of us can visit Israel that openly and get away with it. The status quo will stay as such until judgement day I would assume but what Raï’s upcoming visit is doing is basically galvanizing the talk about the extent of our animosity towards Israel and where this animosity becomes detrimental to us as Lebanese in the 21st century.

Bashing the patriarch left and right, calling him an undercover Israeli agent, hinting at Lebanese Christians being Israel-fans just because the patriarch is visiting Israel, hinting at possible civil strife in case he goes to Israel and turning a religious trip into a matter of national crisis is the type of fearful, stone-aged Israel-centric mode of thought that in 2014 is no longer acceptable.

It’s become way too easy to call someone a traitor, an agent, call for his execution and whatnot whenever Israel gets mentioned in a sentence. It’s become a knee-jerk reaction to some. This ideological terrorism is not acceptable anymore, but at least Raï can take it and still come out unscathed. What good will it do if the patriarch stays in Bkerke while the Pontiff visits Jerusalem? What good of a message does that send? Isn’t it high time we have a discussion about do’s and don’t’s without someone getting a death threat in return?

Patriarch Raï’s visit to Israel is not suicidal as some people have called it. It will not lead him to normalize with the state of Israel. It won’t indicate a new aged shift towards forgetting the Palestinian cause, forgetting what Israel has done to this country and what being enemy states entails.

Odds are Raï will not applaud the name of Israeli politicians if they’re announced somewhere during his visit, the way he did when he visited Syria last year. He won’t acknowledge Israel’s politicians or its policies. And still his visit is made into the next coming of the apocalypse among some parts of the Lebanese populace.

Not minding Raï going to Israel does not mean unequivocal support to the state of Israel and what it represents. It does not mean we want peace talks to commence right now. If anything, you can look at Raï’s visit to Jerusalem as him saying that it’s not Israeli land. You can look at his visit as a pioneering movement in the act of resistance against Israel: doing so right from within at such a high profile level. Or you can just call him a traitor and be done with it while you listen to Fairuz’s “Al Quds.” It’s your choice.

Pity the nation, I presume, that gets more hormonal over Raï visiting Israel under his religious title, not citizenship, than over an the Iranian ambassador who considered our country part of his extended nation. It sort of puts the whole hypocritical approach to our sovereignty and national pride in context. But has Lebanon ever been anything but hypocritical? It’s hypocritical when it comes to the way we practice religions or lack thereof. It’s hypocritical to the way we practice politics or lack thereof and it’s hypocritical when it comes to which countries we consider as enemies.

Get off Raï’s back. His visit to Jerusalem will probably do more to the Palestinian cause than months of Starbucks boycotts, calling on Lara Fabian concerts to be canceled and threatening Lebanese who dare to use the I-word in a sentence with high treason. What a country.

8 thoughts on “On Raï’s Visit to Jerusalem: Get Off His Back

  1. One could also argue if he doesn’t go there then Jerusalem becomes more exclusively for Jewish people?

    If he goes over the Allenby bridge in Jordan to East Jerusalem he wouldn’t ever even be in an area which is internationally recognized as Israel anyway. But most Maronites would live in the Galilee and on the coast. I hope the Maronites who live in Israel don’t get dragged into this political nonsense. I once read a big study about it and also from my own experience, they wish to neither identify strongly with Israel nor with the Palestinians. \

    Anyway in my opinion every human being should be able to visit the Old City regardless of what their country thinks of the Israeli government.


  2. Maybe Rai’ is not a fan of Israel, but it certainly does not look like he hates Israel one bit – pretty much like you I guess.


  3. Great piece. We should be able to visit each other without our countrymen telling us we are traitors. Lebanon does not exist. Israel does not exist. Palestinians do not exist. There are just a bunch of people who haven’t become friends yet! Time for a BBQ!!


    • Eretz Tzion, I am ok with you visiting us and probably will visit you as well after you start allowing all Palestinians that you’ve kicked out of their land and homes to return or to at least visit your freak of a country Israel.


      • roger, I am just a person. One man. It’s politicians and people like you who will never allow our countries to come to terms with their joint pasts and create something new…and more peaceful. I didn’t kick anyone out of my country. [Let’s not compare our countries violent internal pasts…I am sure that Lebanon has had some violent struggles, too. Or am I mistaken?]

        I am very proud of my “freak of a country,” as you should be of yours. Just yesterday afternoon I walked to my local cafe, owned by Arab Christians, had some coffee with Jewish and Palestinian colleagues (sitting at the same table! OMG!!), and then grabbed some groceries at a little Jewish market on the way home. This is the world I live in. Fuck politics.

        One hope for our two countries is that outside of the Middle East it seems that most countries are able to put aside their violent pasts. If the US was able to reestablish ties with Viet Nam, Japan, and Germany, then anything is possible. Anything.


        • Eretz Tzion,
          If one is a responsible citizen, he or she must be a force of change in the politics of the country he or she is a citizen of. You cannot be “just a person” and be taken seriously by playing the innocent “I was just born in this place and I have not problem with anyone” role while knowing very well that the country you live in was founded by creating so much suffering for other innocent people.
          Your comparison to the USA and Vietnam, Japan, Germany reconciliation is invalid because the USA today no longer occupies Vietnamese, Japanese or German land nor does it or has it before expelled or replaced the inhabitants of these countries. Furthermore, today, Americans Vietnamese, Japanese and Germans can all visit each others’ countries freely, which is very much not the case for Palestinian refugees all over the world who wish to visit their homeland. So as a first step towards reconciliation, let’s see this freak of a country Israel allow older inhabitants at least the right to visit!

          By the way, feel free to be proud of your Israel, it won’t change the fact that it, together with my country, Lebanon, are both freaks-of-a-country. Nothing to be proud of that much. I am proud of people who are not sectarian and who have no problems living and dealing peacefully with everyone else regardless of religion or race, so it’s nice to hear you have that cafe there… But it takes a lot more than that to make a long lasting peace, it take responsible citizens that can stand up their governments and correct the ill that they have done over the past because simply forgetting the past and moving on honestly does not help anyone but those who are at an advantage in the present.


  4. Eli, I would be very interested to read a followup post of how al-rai’s visit in Israel went. It’s probably the first time in many years (or ever) that a Lebanese leader visited Israel. What did he do during the visit? What was his impression?



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