Lebanon’s Oldest Church Discovered & Will Be Destroyed Soon?

Update: the site MAY be saved.

Downtown Beirut: the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to archeology. After a blogger (link) and Daily Star journalists were assaulted for taking pictures at the District S site, it turned out a nearby site, where the Roman gate and road were discovered, was more important than originally perceived.

Our ministry of culture Gaby Layoun has no problem in allowing the demolitions at the site in question to continue. But new evidence is now surfacing according to this source that the site in question may contain Lebanon’s first and oldest Church. And yes, that possible Church is part of the things that are going to be destroyed as well.

Source: The Beirut Report

Source: The Beirut Report

What will replace the Roman gate and road as well as the potential Church? A five star hotel and mall. Because that’s precisely what Downtown Beirut is so desperately lacking. After all, why would any tourist in their right mind want to see anything in Beirut that doesn’t revolve around the Zaitunay Bays and the Solidere edition of Downtown Beirut?

Gaby Layoun is well on his way to be Lebanon’s prime minister of culture to allow the most transgressions against Lebanon’s culture. From the Roman hippodrome, the Phoenician port, Amin Maalouf’s house and the constant destruction of Achrafieh to the current site at hand. Of course, all of the aforementioned entities are not things that can be milked electorally for them to be anything substantial for Layoun and his friends. Roman hippodrome and Christian rights sure doesn’t sound catchy enough.

We, as Lebanese, have apparently no right to at least have the parts of our history that are discovered be fully studied and documented because it will ruin the plans of multi-billionaires who are paying our government in droves to turn a blind eye to every single transgression taking place.

It’s not only about stone, mosaics and ancient significance. It’s about this monumental carelessness and barbarism with which authorities handle every single situation in this country, including ruins and culture and houses and highways. And quite honestly, I’ve come to expect nothing less of people who probably find the pillars of Baalbek are enough for this tiny country.

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Let’s Talk About Al Ebra2 El Mousta7il (الإبراء المستحيل)

“Have you read Al Ebra2 el Mousta7il?” One of my FPM relatives asked me a few days ago, a smile spreading across her face like a three year old on Christmas Eve.
“Nope. Have you?” I replied.
“Not yet. But man, I can’t believe how anyone would fathom being with Hariri after it!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll read it when part 2 is released.”

Part 2 is currently in the works as a reply to part 1.

FPMers are having a field day with a recently released book from their MPs, mainly Ibrahim Kenaan which revealed “for the first time ever” some secrets about the Hariri era in Lebanese politics. You can buy the book for $8 at any bookstore. It has more tables in it than a Certified Public Accountant would like to handle and its purpose is more than clear: serve as pre-electoral political propaganda, as is their right.

They have begun to use the term “ebra2ihom al mousta7il” to categorize the Future Movement on their Facebook pages and political websites.

My premise isn’t about the book’s content. It’s about the point behind the book. Who among us does not know that the Hariri era of politics was riddled with corruption? Well, if you don’t now you do. And if you don’t think it did, then your conviction borders on the delusional.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Hariri was the only person running the show from the 1990 to 2005, his government not having any other participant, and ask the following: don’t FPM ministers have their own “ebra2 l mousta7il” from 2005 onwards?

A Western company is suing Gebran Bassil for the way he handled one of the many bids that pass under his ministry. Isn’t that corruption?
The following link portrays severe transgressions of Minister Bassil and Layoun (minister of culture) in Batroun, which MTV is currently investigating, whereby the ministry of culture takes over old Lebanese houses for a very cheap amount of money, gets Gebran to renovate them and sell them for massive amounts. Or how about the diesel scandal that took place last year?

We can also talk about minister Layoun’s disgusting practices in the minister of culture, from allowing the demolishing of the Roman hippodrome to the Phoenician port to many of Beirut’s old houses, including Amin Maalouf’s. How about we look at Layoun’s wealth before and after him taking on the mantle of the ministry?

The aforementioned transgressions are based on a few minutes of research here and there that I, a blogger who doesn’t register on our politicians’ radar, was able to pull off.

FPMers will dismiss this previous link immediately based on its source, as will those who are against the FPM will dismiss their book because their source is very political.

Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il is not a book for the Lebanese masses because you can’t offer one side of the corruption story in Lebanese politics and expect people who differ from you politically to take you seriously. I will not read Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il because, despite keeping an open mind (most of the time) to different scenarios in the country, I know for a fact that the other side which the book doesn’t portray, obviously, committed transgressions that may or may not be as severe as the side the book does, in fact, portray. But that’s not the point.

The point is that every single political party in this country has, upon reaching power committed corrupt acts. The point is that blaming the entire country’s financial and economic problems, through a book such as Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il on one single politician and his party, however corrupt that politician was, is illogical and non-sensical.

Al Ebra2 Al Mousta7il is a book that will get those who support the FPM to support the party even further without even reading the book. Let’s be honest, most FPMers won’t read it and will count on their politicians telling them what the book contains. Those who are against the FPM will dismiss it as nonsense. And come election time, no one will really remember it.

And the merry goes round.

Hariri was corrupt, sure. But Hariri was not the only one who’s corrupt. People with glass houses should not throw stones. Everyone has their own ebra2 al mousta7il.

Marching For Beirut’s Hippodrome and Phoenician Port

In case you didn’t know, current Ministry of Culture has allowed for construction to take place at the location of the Roman Hippodrome in Beirut. For full details, check out this link.

Before Beirut’s hippodrome made news, however, another heritage site of ours was in danger. A Phoenician Port, over 2500 years old, in the Minet el Hosn region in Downtown Beirut, just behind Monroe Hotel. Venus Real Estate intends to build three towers instead of the port. The location, protected by former Minister of Culture Salim Warde, was compromised when Venus Real Estate used the transitory period between governments and convinced current Minister of Culture Gaby Layoun that the port was dispensable.

Details aside, Association for the Protection of Lebanese Heritage (APHL)  is marching for these monuments this Saturday, March 24th. Check out this Facebook event for the details.

I’m glad to see Lebanese people becoming proactive when it comes to things like these. Will you be marching with them?

The Case of Lebanon’s History Book

As a Lebanese who has gone through our educational system, I’ve learned about Lebanon’s history in two separate grades: grade 9 and grade 12, as a preparation for the official exams that I, similarly to many other students, undertook come the month of June of that corresponding year. The difference in the material between grade 9 and grade 12 was literally nonexistent. We used the same book, same notes and discussed the same era all over again. It was as if our history stopped around 1946, when the French army left our country, marking their departure with a carved stone at the Nahr El Kalb valley.

The thing about writing history is that no matter who writes it, it will never be objective. Even the most objective of historians cannot have the history they write be absolutely devoid of a personal touch here or there, which, albeit subtle, can convey a different meeting altogether.

Recently, however, the talks about writing a history book for Lebanon that goes beyond the 1946 obstacle and into the 21st century was in the works. And for that matter, a governmental committee was appointed to discuss what was relevant and what was not.

The members of the committee are: minister Mohammad Fneish, minister Nicolas Fattouch, minister of education Hassan Diab, minister of culture Gaby Layoun, minister Ali Kanso, minister of health Ali Hassan Khalil, minister of justice Shakib Kartbawi, minister of information Walid Daaouk, minister of tourism Walid Abboud and minister of sports Faysal Karami.

In the case of this committee’s attempt at writing a history book for Lebanon, which will be later submitted to the Parliamentary Education committee for approval, their definition of objectivity is: write whatever you want, omit anything you don’t like and voila.

In the draft for this book, every single mention regarding Hezbollah addresses the party as the “Resistance” and glorifies all its struggles and conflicts with Israel, from the 1980s up till now.  On the other hand, minister Mohammad Fneish refused any mention of the March 14 “Cedar Revolution” and anything about the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. The book was also going to omit anything about the protest of the opposition in Beirut’s downtown for two whole years, including the May 7 incidences in Beirut.

In short, anything related to the mistakes Hezbollah did and anything that showed the Syrians in bad light in Lebanon was to be omitted, which is perfectly understandable coming from people like Ali Kanso and Mohammad Fneish, with them belonging to their correspondant political parties.

But what’s worse is a statement for FPM minister Gaby Layoun who said: “the March 14th “Cedar Revolution” is only but an illusion set by that camp.”

And that’s what’s truly horrifying. Set aside the fact that this committee is as one-sided as one-sided goes and ignore the absolute necessity of having at least a counter opinion regarding something as vital to Lebanon as its history book. If the FPM ministers are now ignoring something they were a vital part of and calling it an “illusion” then what can one expect from those who were vehemently against such the movement that got their Syrian BFFs out of the country?

If Hezbollah ministers did not want any reference to the struggles many Lebanese had to go through with regards to the Syrians, which has always been part of their hypocritical propaganda of Israel being our only enemy, when did the Syrian epoch become nonexistent for the FPMers too?

In simple pictures,

according to Mohammad Fneish, Ali Kanso and Gaby Layoun, who happen to be a ministers in:

Lebanon's current government

the following:

the Cedar Revolution

is as real as:

Harry Potter

I’m fairly certain such a draft for our history book will not pass. But you know what, even if it did, the thing about history is that it comes from more than one source. I don’t remember much of the history I was spoon-fed in grades 9 and 12. But I do remember what I lived through and I am writing about it. This blog, for instance, along with all its political content, will be here long after I’ve stopped blogging and long after I’ve even stopped existing. Well, try to censor that I guess.

What’s truly troubling, though, is how such a draft came to exist in the first place. What’s terrifying is that some minds can fully rationalize writing that draft. What’s absolutely frightening is that those minds are in absolute power.