By Nour Schehade '16
I was born in Beirut, “the Paris of the Middle East”, and a bridge between the Orient and the Occident. I consider myself both oriental and occidental and feel deeply connected to Paris. As Lebanon was under the French mandate for 23 years, French influences are profoundly enrooted in Beirut, and in the way we live. The architecture of the downtown Beirut is very similar to that of Paris. French language is commonly spoken in Beirut, the sense of fashion is deeply enrooted in Lebanese women, and, as for many francophone Lebanese, we think of Paris as a second nation to us.
I was heartbroken by the barbaric attacks in Paris last week. The minutes I waited to make sure that my family was safe lasted forever. Fortunately, Facebook’s “marked safe” tool localized them quickly.
Yet, I was saddened that similar attacks in Beirut just 48 hours before were ignored by the the world. On that day, I came to school, did not hear a word of compassion, and could not localize my friends, as Facebook’s “marked safe” tool was not activated. While the world cried for Paris’ attacks, we cried, for both nations, alone.
Lebanon has been celebrated throughout centuries, including more than 70 citations in the Holy Bible. Yet, perplexed and defeated of the general indifference, I came to the awful realization that our modern world has forgotten you.
I asked around why people gave less importance to the attacks in Beirut and heard these arguments:
“Lebanon is still a war zone.”- Beirut has become one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world. There are 18 religious communities among a population of 4 million. You will find no problem communicating with people as the average person is trilingual. Beirut has a night-life comparable to that of Berlin. You will also find the headquarters of some the world’s most famous designers such as Elie Saab. We do face periodic instability, but we never just “get used to it.” We react to instability by living more fiercely and to the fullest, enabling us to completely rebuild a city that was destroyed by 15 years of civil war. No one ever “gets used to it.”
“Lebanon overall is a less important nation.”- The impact our ancestors, the Phoenicians, and Lebanon have had throughout history is considerable. The Phoenicians invented the first recognized alphabet in the world at around 1050 BC. The Phoenicians were also the first ones to build boats (manufactured for the pharaohs of Egypt) and the first ones to sail! Byblos, an ancient port city in Lebanon, is claimed to be the oldest city in the world. The first law school in the world was established in Lebanon. The list goes on. In fact, Lebanon was considered such a strategic territory that it was conquered by 16 different civilizations.
Beirut, is associated with the Phoenix, a mythical sacred bird in Phoenician mythology. It is a symbol of immortality, as at the end of its life, the bird burns along with its nest. A new phoenix egg is reborn from the ashes and lives again.
Beirut, you are the son of the Phoenix. The world might have forgotten you. But I know you will rise again; for as long as, “The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted,” (Psalm 104:16, the Bible), you shall be invincible.
Nour is a second year and is a Lebanese national.