Israeli Christians Are Coming To Lebanon For Pilgrimage; Patriach Rai Wants Lebanese Christians To Be Allowed To Go To Holy Land

The most amazing story coming out of the Middle East this week is a report by Haaretz around two days ago about a massive undertaking by the Israeli Maronite and Christian populace to be able to come to Lebanon for pilgrimage, a country that is at war, and has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

The way these Israelis go at it is the following: they leave Israel and enter Jordan with their Israeli passports. In Jordan, they are issued Palestinian travel documents which they use to travel to Beirut. Those travel documents are then confiscated at our airport, and are only valid for a one week entry.

During that one week, the itinerary that the Israelis have includes: Mar Charbel in Annaya, Batroun’s convents, Harissa, Maghdouche, Baalbek, etc… as well as some Beirut mall, of course, which they are allowed to visit for a few hours only. They stay at facilities provided by the Maronite Church, are not permitted to leave their groups unattended, and the entire trip is planned from points A to Z in the utmost details in order to prevent any fallback from such measures in both countries.

In fact, they are not even allowed to talk to Lebanese people at the sites they are visiting for fear of someone recognizing where they’re from and tipping off authorities. They keep to themselves, spend a week here, and go back to their country reportedly very “appreciative” of the experience they got.

The Haaretz report (link) says that hundreds of Israeli Christians have been using that method to come to Lebanon for pilgrimage. I was intrigued as to why Israelis would want to come to Lebanon for Christian pilgrimage when they are literally living in the Holy Land. As it turns out, the majority of those coming into Lebanon are Maronites, who have bonds to the region being where the seat of Maronitisim and its main holy sites are.

The origin of such a pilgrimage trip reportedly goes back to 2014, which also happens to be the last time a high profile Maronite figure visited the Holy Land was when Patriach Bechara El Rai went there in 2014 when the Pope was also visiting. During that visit, the patriarch reportedly met with Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian authorities, in Ramallah and discussed with him issuing Palestinian travel documents to Israeli Arab Christians who wish to visit Lebanon for pilgrimage. As it turns out, Mahmoud Abbas obliged.

Since then, those trips have become increasingly less hidden, with authorities in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine deciding to turn a blind eye to these people going about their religious escapades in a country they’d normally not be able to visit. For $1800, the people wishing to visit Lebanon register their names with a yet unidentified priest in Galilee who then transmits that list to the Palestinian authorities for travel documents issuance.

Given that many Israeli Muslims are allowed to go to Saudi Arabia using Jordanian passports for Hajj, I don’t believe that such trips into Lebanon purely for religious purposes should cause any uproar. Even Al-Akhbar, known for their anti-Israeli crusades against anything that is touched by the Zionist state (as long as it’s not something they’re dependent on of course), was not entirely critical of the visits, labeling them under the guise of religion, rather than politics.

As it is though in the Middle East, everything is political.

Soon after the Haaretz report surfaced, Patriarch Rai announced that he believes Lebanese Christians should also be permitted to be able to visit the Holy Land and Jerusalem as part of religious pilgrimage. Rai believes that such visits would not fall under the much-dreaded normalization, but rather under religious auspices.

To that effect, during his much talked about visit to Saudi Arabia later in the month, he will discuss the logistics of how KSA, a country also with no diplomatic relations to Israel (yet), facilitates its own pilgrimage process of Israeli Muslims. As per the Haaretz article, Raï said “when I visited the Holy Land, I met with my community and had no political activity. And I don’t see anything wrong with this.”

Except while Patriarch Raï sees nothing wrong with such a move, a Lebanese population that rose up in arms about a movie with an Israeli actress will sure run towards the guillotines and shout treason and normalization at anyone who agrees with such a prospect.

Currently, a Lebanese citizen who wishes to visit the Holy Land cannot do so unless they are in the possession of a second nationality which permits visits to Israel, and even then that person would technically be breaking Lebanese law, although I wonder: how much emphasis can we put on laws whose application is as arbitrary as the Lebanese raison d’etre, only put into action when there’s enough political backbone for them to be applied, only enforced on those who don’t have IMDB pages to their names or enough clout to escape the judicial system?

I find the premise of religious causes outweighing political ones to be appealing, but this is the Middle East and not La La Land (that movie deserved the Oscar fyi). In a region as volatile and as precipitous, and between two countries that are constantly in conflict, whether actual or an undercurrent, should religious pilgrimage be allowed?

I’d like to say that if the Israelis are doing it, then we should do it as well. But while those Israeli Arabs have technical means with which they can access Lebanon (Palestinian documents, as they also happen to be Palestinian), Lebanese Christians only have their passport as their means for visitation. Such visits are, therefore, not technically feasible in the first place.

Add to the technical aspect of things all the treason threats that those who undertake such visits would get. It wasn’t a long time ago that people accused me of treason and sympathy with Israel because my name indicated I was Christian, solely due to me not wanting Wonder Woman to be banned. Even Al-Akhbar which was okay with the visits from Israel’s Arabs (apparently it considers them to be forcibly naturalized), the mere mention of such reciprocity had them be up in flames.

Such visits from Lebanon cannot be done in hiding – as their Israeli counterpart is happening. The Lebanese state has to sign off on them to begin with, and such a thing will never happen.

Until then, let those Israeli Arabs enjoy the many convents and spectacular views that Lebanon has to offer. By the looks of it, such visits will not be lasting long now.

 

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How A Tweet Launched A Mini Regional Crisis: Mossad Launches #TelAvivLovesBeirut, and Beirut Responds

As part of an article on rising travel destinations, Forbes Magazine listed both Tel Aviv and Beirut as some of the locations that Americans are becoming increasingly interested in visiting. As such, an Israeli investment manager called Mark Leibowitz tweeted in celebrating, inadvertently tagging Beirut.com’s twitter account thinking they were the official representatives of the city.

As such, Beirut.com replied from their twitter account that they wanted to be “excluded from the narrative” echoing the ever wise Taylor Swift circa 2016 with her reply to the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian drama. It’s also a narrative they did not choose to partake in in the first place. What they meant was that they wanted their official twitter account not to be associated with such a thing given they’re not representatives of the city in any way. What Mark Leibowitz understood of it was an act of aggression over the statement he made.

Of course, Beirut.com’s reply was not taken on too kindly by the Israeli twitterverse that responded aplenty:

And, naturally, the Mossad intervened.

Of course, such silly hashtag by one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies regarding a country they’re at war with and have been in active conflict with nearly 11 years ago did not sit well with the Lebanese populace on in Twitter.

It hasn’t been a year yet since these threats were made by Israeli politicians against the Lebanese people:

Some of the Lebanese replies though are as follows:

Another day, another drama.

It’s fortunate that hashtags and Twitter wars remain as online media through which people can vent without actual damage being done, or at least damage in the literal sense of the word of what usually takes place when Lebanon and Israel clash.

It’s immensely silly that the Israeli Mossad tried to brush away years of conflict between the two countries with a hashtag as silly as the one they came up with, or that some of the Israelis responding were not aware there’s more to the conflict between the two countries than what began 71 years ago when their country was founded.

If Tel Aviv truly “loved” Beirut, they would refrain their politicians from launching threats at Beirut whenever they want to give a boost to their political credentials, and own up to their own record of attacking Lebanese civilians, admit to the countless war crimes they’ve committed in Lebanon – and that’s for starters. But of course, watch them blurt out Hezbollah as a response.

I may not support all facets of Lebanese censorship or prosecution when it comes to Israel-related entities, but I cannot also stand and watch my country’s own destruction be washed off under a meme.

 

“West Beirut” and “The Insult” Director Ziad Doueiri Arrested in Beirut Because His Last Movie Was In Israel

Pity the nation that insults its people as other nations honor them.

Ziad Doueiri is probably the most essential contemporary Lebanese cinematic director. His movie “West Beirut” is probably the most renowned Lebanese movie for the past 2 decades and his latest “The Insult” just made its debut at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews and a best actor win for Kamel El Basha, starring as Yasser in the aforementioned movie.

And yet, here we are, with such a Lebanese pioneer being arrested because his prior movie, The Attack, was set in Israel even if it did not show the Israeli state in a good light.

I had the chance to watch The Attack in 2013 when I was with a friend in Paris. That same movie had been banned in Lebanon because it was set in Israel. Understandable, given the country couldn’t even handle a movie where the main actress was Israeli. And even though I was not a fan of that movie at the time, I was still able to commend the fact that it commanded a discussion. Be it with the other Lebanese who watched it with me, or the French people in that theatre who were wondering about what the details the movie discussed actually meant.

“The Insult” opens in theaters in Lebanon in a few days. Local movie reviewers such as Anis Tabet have given it a glowing recommendation. But that seems not to be on the same wavelength of the Lebanese state that’s arrested Mr. Doueiri at our airport for “dealing with the enemy.” He was coming here prior to the Tuesday premiere of his movie.

It’s horrifying to see how narrow-minded we can be and how despicable our levels can sink when dealing with the people of our country that help raise our voice on international levels, such as Mr. Doueiri, because of convoluted measures that have no reflection whatsoever on reality: a person filming a movie in Israel does not mean they are in bed with the enemy.

Following his arrest at the airport, Doueiri’s Lebanese and French passports were both confiscated. He is scheduled to stand trial in front of Military Court tomorrow at 9AM, Beirut time. Meanwhile, his movie “The Insult” has been selected by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture to represent Lebanon at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Bipolarity much? Not only are they arresting him five years after he had been in Israel and after multiple visits back to Beirut, but you can’t also arrest a director for “treason”, and then use him to propel you on the international cinematic stage. You can’t arrest a Lebanese citizen and then use his work to wash away the many failings that constitute your modern republic.

The arrest of Ziad Doueiri comes after a complaint lodged against him. Expect the campaign against the director to go into full blown mania soon.

It’s not just the lack of consistency that’s horrifying, it’s the absolute carelessness of our basic rights as citizens, and the fact we are at the whim of some entities that have nothing better to do.

The entire notion that Military Court can judge civil issues is abysmal. It’s even worse when you realize that Doueiry was in Lebanon to film “The Insult,” even spending two weeks doing so at the country’s highest court.

The question therefore becomes: why now? What prompted them to realize just before his movie’s Lebanese release that he has a troublesome past?

I bet some people in Lebanon would be happy to see Mr. Doueiri foresake his Lebanese citizenship. After all, the bar at which some label others as traitors seems to fluctuate depending on whether their existence is essential or not. At the rate we’re going, he wouldn’t be mistaken to do so. After all, we have no issue with any other foreigner who’s visited Israel to come into the country as long as their passport doesn’t have a stamp.

Utterly despicable. Here’s hoping the Prime Minister and our government see through this bullshit.

Update: he’s been cleared by military court.

Lebanon’s Government Wants To Ban “Wonder Woman” Because Lead Actress Gal Gadot Is Israeli

Oh look, just when you thought we couldn’t regress further as a country, some entity decides to take up the challenge. The latest is Lebanon’s Ministry of Economy deciding, at the very last minute, to start the procedure to ban this summer’s blockbuster movie “Wonder Woman” because its lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli.

As per a source, Wonder Woman has already passed all forms of regulations for it to get a screen date in Lebanon, which is this coming Thursday, including a very strict censorship bureau and other apparatuses who are more than willing to ax movies than to let them through. And yet, as in typical Lebanese fashion and because we definitely have our priorities in order, Lebanon’s government decided to rise up from its slumber and resist, even though the movie has been announced for over 3 years now.

Resist what? A movie about an iconic superhero who’s been part of pop culture for over 70 years. A movie in which the lead actress happens to be Israeli or has served in the IDF or who is part of an apartheid state, but who’s not portraying ANYTHING related to her “country” in any way whatsoever. A movie that has absolutely nothing to do with Israel in any way, where Israel is not even mentioned or alluded to, and in which the lead actress does nothing to even propagate the idea of her homeland. And yet, her mere existence has some people triggered beyond belief.

You’d think if they want their ban to make the least of sense, they’d have done it a year ago when the movie’s first trailer was released, not in the week of its release after it’s been given a green light, handling massive financial losses to the Lebanese company that won its distribution rights.

In a statement issued today (link in Arabic), Lebanon’s Ministry of Economy – I don’t even know how it’s their job to decide some movies should be censored – said the following:

  • The ministry of Economy has already taken the necessary measures to make sure Gal Gadot’s previous movie, Batman v Superman, was not shown in Lebanese cinemas through a request to the General Directorate of Security dating 13/03/2016.
  • The ministry has also sent a request to the BDS office in Damascus to add Gal Gadot’s name to a blacklist for boycott.
  • On 21/04/2016, the Arab League issued a decree to ban any movie featuring Gal Gadot.
  • On 29/05/2017, the ministry has issued a decree to the General Directorate of Security to start the necessary procedures to ban the movie’s screening.

I don’t know where the people governing us have been living, but Batman v Superman was not banned. In fact, I watched it on a big fat Lebanese screen and many applauded when Gal Gadot’s character came on screen because her character, which also happens to be Wonder Woman in that movie, is badass and worthy of the applause.

Gal Gadot’s was also featured in the Fast and Furious series, multiple times, all of which were not banned as well. Probably because more than a few government official as well as some of those turned up about banning Wonder Woman wanted to see Vin Diesel make those cars roar.

Who knows, maybe their problem isn’t with Gal Gadot being Israeli and having served in the IDF, both of which have no bearing on the movie in question, but rather because the movie features strong independent female characters which our patriarchy cannot propagate?

And let’s not begin with even listening to what the Arab League deems appropriate or not. If we went by anything that lot wanted, we’d be living in the darker ages they’re all enjoying so happily.

What’s next, though? Banning every single movie that dares to be associated in any way with Israel? Banning every actor or actress who’s set foot in Israel? Deciding not to show any feature film that has any entity that remotely agrees with anything Israel does? Why don’t we just ban ourselves from everything commercial in the world and be done with it?

Natalie Portman was born in Israel. No one has a problem with her movies. I’m willing to be those same people calling for Wonder Woman’s ban were more than excited to see Portman in the Star Wars reboot, way back when.

The fact of the matter is that if you have a problem with the content of a movie, the actor or actress leading it or anything pertaining to it, having it banned for everyone else is what’s wrong, not the fact that the actress in it happens to come from an enemy country whose existence we don’t acknowledge. Simply don’t go watch it. Don’t give it the word of mouth it needs. Don’t give it your hard-earned money, call for a boycott, but you sure as hell have no right in making sure no one else gets to watch it too.

The fact that, in the week of Wonder Woman’s release worldwide, the Lebanese media cycle is about the possibility of banning the movie as our government remembers that this movie features an actress we don’t approve of, is sad. Where do we draw the line at what should be banned in this country because of its association with Israel? Or are we going to keep on cherry picking at battles without knowing how to pick them?

Even if they ban Wonder Woman, our government and those who support its decision seem to have forgotten that in the age of the internet, no movie is further than a couple of clicks away. I’m not surprised that they’re not even aware how futile their censorship attempts will be at preventing the propagation of whatever it is they don’t want to propagate.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be making sure to watch Wonder Woman (if they keep her, and even if they don’t). Gal Gadot may be a shitty person and actress, but both are still not enough arguments to ban the movie. Just let me know, when you’re done with the hoopla, if you’ve freed Palestine by banning an irrelevant movie featuring an irrelevant actress with an irrelevant background to an irrelevant story, while Lebanon maintains its oppression of the Palestinians living here.

No Netanyahu, Israel Isn’t The Only Middle Eastern Place Where Christians Can Celebrate Christmas

In his increasingly childish bitchfit against the international political establishment that saw his country’s transgressions through settlements on Palestinian land finally made illegal with a UN resolution banning Israel – yeah, right – from building more of them, the Israeli PM is lashing out at his country’s closest ally and the reason Israel has been off the hook in everything it’s done for years, the United States.

As part of a rant aimed at US Secretary of State John Kerry whose tone was very moderate towards the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, with him recognizing the plight of Palestinians and their refugees, the land grab they’ve been victim of, among other things, Netanyahu figured it best to remind Kerry, and by extension of his buzz words that you know will circle Fox News for months to come, other Americans and Westerners who see Israel as the only worthy beacon of civilization in the Middle East that – and I quote:

“Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christians can celebrate Christmas.”

In the grand scheme of things, such statements are utterly meaningless, mostly because they’re pure bullshit. But as we’ve seen bullshit can actually get equal bullshit elected. The danger in letting such statements go by unchallenged is that they play right into the rhetoric that Israel and its allies want to put forward: It is the only country in the Middle East that’s, for all matters and purposes, worth anything, everyone else be damned.

It’s precisely not challenging such statements in the past that has turned Israel from the apartheid state existing on occupied territory, turning a blind eye towards all rules of war, ignoring many of the UN resolutions in which it is part, among other things, to this “liberal,” “religiously free” beacon of “hope” in the Middle East that is only “defending” itself against those “Arabs” who just don’t get it. All of this to the backdrop of Christian-centric, Israel-loving, everything and everyone else-hating Trump coming in 3 weeks.

So Netanyahu, and those that seem to believe him, how about you come sit on last year’s Byblos tree? I’m pretty sure it will bring your lot quite the pleasure.

jbeil-byblos-christmas-tree-2015

This year’s tree can work fine too:

byblos-jbeil-christmas-tree-2016

Or how about you come see this year’s tree in Tripoli? In case you didn’t know, that’s *whispers* Muslim territory.

tripoli-christmas-village-1

How about checking out the tree in Downtown Beirut?

beirut-downtown-tree-2016

Pic via @livelovebeirut.

Or the many other ways through which Beirut celebrated Christmas? (Pictures via LiveLoveBeirut).

 

Or how about the tree in my own house where my family gathered for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch, opened presents and then had some of its members go to midnight mass?

lebanon-christmas-decoration-2016-2

Or those pesky Christmas decorations in all our malls?

I also don’t see Israel on that Huffington Post list of notable Christmas trees from around the world but Lebanon has TWO entries there, as does the West Bank. Weird, huh?

I find it odd that the country that sells itself as being the world’s only Jewish state and gets away with it because anyone who tries to challenge that notion is deemed anti-Semitic has the audacity to claim it’s a defender of Christian rights when Christians in Israel are, similarly to Muslims, inherently second class citizens due to the fact they’re not, you know, Jewish. Just an FYI to Netanyahu and his friends, the president in Lebanon is Christian and I, a Lebanese who happens to be Christian (on paper), have the absolute freedom to practice my religion if I want to without worrying about checkpoints, armies oppressing me, a state that deems my religion second-rate, among other things.

And if you thought that Lebanon was a special case, let me remind you that it was less than a week ago that Israeli rabbis had a problem with Christmas decorations at a local mall. Or does that not affect the way Christians celebrate Christmas?

Conversely, when that “scandal” was going down, I was visiting the Jordanian city Aqaba, from which I could see Eilat. The city was Christmas ready with decorations at its hotels and streets, even though its Christian population is minor.

aqaba-christmas-decoration

The fact of the matter is that the best Christmas in the Middle East isn’t in Lebanon or in Jordan, but where it all began: Bethlehem. And even that isn’t in Israel either.

Tea, meet kettle.

Lebanon At 2016 Rio Olympics: Our Athletes, The Possibility of a Gold Medal & Fighting With Israel Over A Bus

Lebanon Olympics 2016

Rio’s 2016 Olympics had their big opening yesterday, or as the joke goes it was similar to an average Lebanese wedding. Critics are hailing Brazil’s celebration of its history without shying away from the bits that are usually covered up such as slavery, and thirsty people are drooling over the flag bearer of a Tonga, which is a country of 169 Polynesian islands.

As it is customary, Lebanon has a collection of athletes – nine – that are representing the country in Rio. Those athletes are:

  • Ray Bassil – Shooting,
  • Mariana Sahakian  – Table Tennis,
  • Ahmad Hazer – Athletics,
  • Chirine Njem – Athletics,
  • Anthony Barbar – Swimming,
  • Gabriella Doueihy – Swimming,
  • Elias Nassif – Judo,
  • Mona Sheaito  – Fencing,
  • Richard Mourjan – Canoe Slalom.

Chirine Njem will be the first woman to represent Lebanon in a Marathon race. Richard Mourjan will also be our first time participating in a Canoe Slalom.

Of the nine aforementioned athletes, Ray Bassil and Mona Sheaito participated in London’s 2012 Olympics.

The last time Lebanon won a medal at the Olympics goes back to 1980, at the Moscow olympics, where Hassan Bechara won a bronze for Greco-Roman wrestling.

In total, our country has a total of 4 medals to its name, two silver and two bronze, divided along the following manner:

  • 1952 (Helsinki Olympics): Zakaria Chehab (silver medal in men’s wrestling); Khalil Taha (bronze medal in men’s wrestling)
  • 1972 (Munich’s Olympics): Mohamed Traboulsi (silver medal in weightlifting),
  • 1980 (Moscow’s olympics): Hassan Bechara (bronze medal in wrestling).

The country has never had an athlete win a gold medal. I guess this is not exactly shocking given how little investment our governments put into sports in general and into nourishing the many athletic talents that our country has. Even sending athletes to the Olympics has proven, over and over again, to be “complicated” for our government. Those that went to London in 2012 reportedly had to finance a big chunk of their participation.

So it’s to that backdrop that it seems unbelievable that Lebanon may have its first shot at a golden medal. As reported by CNN, since her disappointing start in London back in 2012, Lebanon’s Ray Bassil has been working really hard, despite the obstacles set forth by her own country, to get better at what she does. She has since collected medal upon medal, rising to become the world’s #1 female trap shooter.

Ray will be competing on Sunday August 7th (tomorrow) at 3PM Beirut time.

Ray Bassil Olympics 2016 Rio

The schedule of Lebanon’s athletes is as follows, as sent to me by a friend:

Saturday, August 6th
* Mariana Sahakian – Table Tennis.

Sunday, August 7th:
* Ray Bassil: Shooting.
* Gabriella Doueihy: Swimming (women’s 400m freestyle).
* Richard Merjan: Canoe Slalom Men’s canoe single

Tuesday, August 9th: 
* Elias Nassif: Judo – 81 kg elimination round of 32

Wednesday, August 10th: 
* Mona Sheaito: Fencing,

Thursday, August 11th:
* Anthony Barbar: Swimming (men’s 50m freestyle).

Sunday, August 14th:
* Chirine Njem: Women’s marathon.

Tuesday, August 16th:
* Ahmad Hazer: Men’s 110m hurdle race.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Lebanese if our participation went drama free. Lucky for us, the drama started on day zero with the Lebanese and Israeli delegations nearly fighting over being assigned the same bus to be transported to the opening ceremony.

Lebanon - Israel - Rio 2016

The Times of Israel were the first to report on the issue (link), before Lebanese media picked up on the news. Israelis were appalled – gasp – and found the precedence to be “dangerous.” Meanwhile in Lebanon, the news is receiving more comical responses.

There’s not really much to read into it, and the only entity to blame for assigning the same bus for the Lebanese and Israeli delegations is the organizing committee that figured putting two enemy countries that recently commemorated the ten year anniversary of their latest war together on the same transportation vehicle was a good idea.

The Israelis can go on and on about how being blocked by the Lebanese delegation from accessing the bus is “unsportsmanship” behavior. And we, as Lebanese, will have differing opinions about this depending on where we fall on the political spectrum. But the fact of the matter is and will always be: it’s not unsportsmanship to protest Israel’s violations of our land, our people, and the land of the people that have been forcibly made refugees in our country. The Olympic games have never been devoid of political tone, and this is just another manifestation of that.

The Lebanese athletes sharing the bus with the Israeli delegation would have also had repercussions in Lebanon, as it is illegal for us to have any sort of interaction with Israelis. Or have we forgotten the international selfie scandal?

So in summary: we have nine athletes making us proud, one of them might make Lebanese history, and we’ve already fought with Israel. Just another typical day in Lebanon.

Lebanon Successfully Turns Army Day Into A Mortifying Freakshow

I get it if it’s Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day or any other day that has become, over the years, synonymous with commercialism and ways for advertisers all around the world to sell their products.

I get that 2016 has been proving a tough year so far. Our economy is going downhill, if that’s even possible. Inflation is going up. Roadster diner changed its menu. It’s a tough year out there to be Lebanese. And it just got tougher to swallow.

The horrors of 2016 continue today with Lebanon’s Army Day, celebrated every year on August 1st, becoming our new Mother’s and Father’s and Valentine’s Day. For lack of other words, bel lebnene: 7alabneha.

Ad agencies across country decided Army Day was yet another opportunity not to honor the army, but to pitch their new product in a way to sell it riding our army’s back. So everyone and their mother decided to do Army Day ads, of which this is a sample:

And just when you think that this would be the end of it, the yearly social media gaffe occurs with Virgin Megastores deciding to honor the army in their own way:

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Awesome, right? Except that picture is of an Israeli soldier. You’d think that such a mistake would not occur on Army Day, out of all days, let alone on any other regular day. You’d think a campaign such as this would go through several people before surfacing online, but guess again I suppose.

After posting the above screenshot on my blog’s Facebook page, Virgin were quick to take down the post and decide that pointing out the fact they were using Lebanon’s only enemy country to “give respect” to our army was us leading a “campaign” against them. I’ve begun to realize that this is the Lebanese way for companies to deal with backlash: it’s always a campaign, and they’ve never actually fucked up. Even if it’s a picture of an Israeli soldier.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 11.32.23 PM

And if you thought this was the end of it, you thought wrong.

Because this is the country of “la joie de vivre” and this is summer, and as we all know, you can swim and ski in the same day w hek, a Lebanese overpriced resort decided to flaunt its army love in the only way it knows how, other than parading its own overcrowded facilities of course: half-naked bodies dancing in a pool to a semi-remixed version of the Lebanese National Anthem.

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up:

Many may not see anything wrong with such a display, but I find it hard to find swimsuit-sporting half-intoxicated bodies prancing to your country’s national anthem as anything remotely approaching paying respect for your country or your army.

2016 will officially go down as the year when Lebanon commercialized its Army Day. It was probably a long time coming, but we’re officially there. I wouldn’t be channeling my inner Layla Abdul Latif much if I predicted next year to be worse, with more ads, more products that want to be sold, more people paying money to sell their products than actually contributing to the army in the ways that it can benefit from, all to the backdrop of a country so buried in the sand that Army Day passes by every year without us having a proper discussion about it.

You see, would ad agencies find Army Day to be such an enticing opportunity hadn’t we, as Lebanese, put the army on a pedestal beyond reproach?

See you next year. And happy Army Day. Ba3d fi Exotica ma 3emlet di3aye.