Guide to Lebanon Blog Posts

It’s hard to believe how much time has passed since I was in Lebanon. Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday and other times it feels like it was all a dream (yes, I know that sounds cliche!). Whenever I think back to those incredible ten days in Lebanon I always have a smile on my face.

In a few weeks I will be presenting again on my time in Lebanon. This presentation will be at the Hudson Library and Historical Society on Tuesday February 5th at 7:00pm. Again, I hope for those of you in the area, you will consider attending.

For anyone who is new to my blog I thought it might be helpful if I repost the links to each blog post that I made while in Lebanon. I have included a brief summary of each one.

Enjoy!

Oreos with the Ambassador = Pre-departure, reflection on orientation in Washington DC

Details from pre-departure = more information on our pre-departure orientation sessions

Walking Tour = Our first day in Lebanon we took a walking tour of downtown Beirut

All around Lebanon = Big day of touring including Khalil Gibran museum, the Cedars, and the Roman Ruins at Baalbek

Day 4 – Our first meetings = met with Michael Young, Hanin Ghaddar, Ousama Safa and Lokman Slim

Day 6 – More meetings = met with Youssef Fawaz from Al Majmoua (microfinance NGO) and toured American University of Beirut

Parliament Meeting = met with Simon Abi Ramia, member of Parliament and head of the commission for Youth and Sports

Tour of Byblos = visited Jeita Grotto and Byblos

Just Checking In = photos at the border with Israel and with UNIFIL

Music in Lebanon = details on Najwa Karam performance at the Achrafieh Music Festival and our visit to Skybar

Visit to the US Embassy in Beirut = details on the life of US ambassadors in Lebanon

ANERA = met with Bill Corcoran, president of American Near East Refugee Assosciation, who does work with Palestinian Refugees

 

Flower at Baalbek

Day 4 – Our first meetings

Yesterday was our first day of meetings. We went to this super swanky office building where the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation has their offices. We met with four individuals:

  1. Michael Young who is an editor at Reason magazine and also an editor at the Daily Star. He has also written a book, which I am going to try and get when we return called “The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggles.”
  2. Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of Now Lebanon. She was very friendly and honest with her comments.
  3. Ousama Safa who is a Social Affairs officer at UN ESCWA. He also has experience with think tanks, lobbying and public policy.
  4. Lokman Slim is an activist trying to raise awareness about the collective amnesia regarding the Civil War. He co-founded Umam Documentation & Research and has helped publish several reports related to the Civil War.

All of the panelists were informative and interesting. We started off looking at the Arab Spring. One of the panelists shared that he believes there is a false sense of belief that things can happen in Lebanon as well post Arab Spring. The reality is that the Lebanese beast has multiple heads and so it is impossible to rally for one specific officials resignation or something similar because are so many issues at different levels.

The major topic on everyone’s minds right now is Syria. Syria has a very direct influence on events in Lebanon, therefore it is a question of how, not when, things might change in Lebanon.

Another topic which we discussed was the amnesia related to the Civil War. The Lebanese Civil War officially ended in 1990 with an official amnesty. It is called into question how the war ended and, more importantly, if it ended? It is surprising that a unified history book has not been decided on in Lebanon. There are three different history books depending on which region you live in. The panelists had different views regarding the issue of the textbook. Ousama believed that it was ridiculous that the country could not decide on one book and it should be remedied as soon as possible. However, Lokman, who spends a lot of time on the topic of the Civil War in his work, though that the textbook was irrelevant and advocated a curriculum based on all different perspectives. The attitude of many in Lebanon is that the war wasn’t their war, it was a “war of others.” All panelists agreed that the Lebanese need to take ownership of the war in order to truly move on.

A big issue in Lebanon is the sectarianism. All panelists agreed that the confessional system is flawed and needs revisions, however they did not all agree on what the revisions should be.

I was surprised by the panelists opinions towards the US and especially US foreign policy. One panelists commented that there is a huge vacuum left by US policy in the region. He wanted the US to show global leadership with diplomacy and use their musclepower to forced people into dialogue because the time for dialogue may be missed. With the shrinking space for dialogue and diplomacy, there is a growth of radicalism. One panelist seemed fearful that Obama would likely be stepping back from the Middle East if re-elected.