Life Amidst the Rubble

18 Feb . 8 Min Read .  752

Photo courtesy of Roula Korban Khadra

Name one form of tragedy the Lebanese have not gone through; you will not be able to.

Name one facet of destruction the Lebanese have not experienced; you will not be able to.

Name one family that has been unscathed by the many catastrophes that have hit Lebanon; you will not be able to.

Name one kind of treason the Lebanese have not been stabbed with by inner Lebanese powers and by outside forces; you will not be able to. 

Yet, despite it all, the Lebanese are still the magnet of life and beauty.  They are at the center of arts,  of culture, of education, of creativity.  They are the beating heart of chivalry, compassion, fraternity and sorority. 

Beirut is demolished.  Yet another ongoing caption of life persists. 

Some loved ones have passed away to the other realm of existence while some others are still under the rubble; the long cold hours of waiting are tantalizing some families, leaving them bereft.  Official assistance is almost absent, but the communal aid is the headline that brings a taste of warmth and some sort of sense to a much distorted reality.  Many lost their homes and are left homeless, but beauty radiates despite the pain. 

Here is the elderly lady who lost her home, but has not lost her piano.  So, she plays amidst the destruction, emanating music and belongingness to a much estranged actuality.

Here is another elder woman, in her white night gown, elegantly sitting on a white plastic chair – with the debris of her home behind her – waiting…  For whom?  For what?  For truth to unravel, for justice to take its course, for beauty to reign, for life to indoctrinate death…  Echoes of music and beauty color the remains with Life. 

Here is Mrs. Roula Korban Khadra, who has had a concatenation of losses between Gemmayzeh and Hamra (the Zee Gallery in Gemmayzeh and her brother’s Hotel 309 that she manages in Hamra) confidently smiles and comments, “We are used to rebuilding; we will rebuild and rise. We have been through many challenges before; we will victoriously go through this one as well.  The general atmosphere here in Gemmayzeh is so positive and convivial.  Young people from all the regions of Lebanon are helping: they sweep, lift, clean.  There are also tents that distribute food and water for free.  Mothers and fathers cook food in their homes and come over here to distribute it to anyone who is need; the usual Lebanese civic glory, in the shy presence of official authorities.” 

After the sixteen-year civil war (1975-1990), Beirut Central District was rebuilt by Solidere, the Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District s.a.l.  Many of the initial proprietors of Beirut Central District (BCD) lost their property to Solidere.  There was hegemony over many people’s lifetime toil and harvest:  Their shops were seized, and they were under-compensated for the sake of reconstructing BCD.   How can broken hearts and shattered dreams form any solid foundation for any construction, let alone a capital of a country, as special and as unique as Lebanon?  

Karen, a 55-year-old woman, whose father owned a bookshop in Azarieh Bldg. in BCD, explains how Solidere forced her father to pay the $17,000 to regain his shop, in the year 1996. He paid $16,000 and had $1000 left to pay the month after.  To his surprise, Solidere leased his shop to another person, without the father’s knowledge or consent.  Karen’s father lost his store and lost his $16,000.  

Respectively, Beirut’s seaport has been a hub of corruption; it is corruption’s second name.  With this August 4 2020 atrocity ailing the city and the entire country, with tens of innocent lives exhausted, is this not the time for the Lebanese to build with sincerity the Lebanon they dream of, for the good of Lebanon itself and not for any other narrow personal purpose or desire of gain?  The lost lives, the innocent souls, one’s lifetime harvest, one’s nest of home, the fervent prayers, the unbearable heartache are the cleanest fuel to the relentless will to rebuild Beirut in its purest form.

How long can falsehood sustain itself?  The falsehood of the corruption from 1990 until 2020 lasted for thirty years, for one generation, until this demolition came along to pave for the opportunity to rise again on solid grounds, based on truth and right, with the martyrs souls to incentivize, their decaying bodies to fertilize, their prayers and ours to bloom with tomorrow’s flowery promises of a cohesive Lebanon that is far from the petty push-and-pull of the decision makers.  Beirut will be rebuilt with the love of the Lebanese people that has come together to give solace and beauty to a disfigured and injured capital and country. 

Lebanese of all ages, all religions and all regions have reunited to help their fellow Lebanese clean the remnants of negligence and hatred and place the corner stone of the new home and shop, the building blocks of a Beirut that stands for beauty and life, a Beirut that realizes that falsehood will soon fray, that right stands strong, unwavered unfaltered, against the test of time.

Martyrdom, devastation, and homelessness seem to become elements of life in our Lebanese daily lives.  We breathe with the breath of the souls that have parted, we carry these souls within our folds, and we keep our forward motion.  We expand in love, loyalty, and determination: the more the martyrs, the more the love; the more the treason, the more the tenacity; the more the rubble, the more the resilience; the more the ugliness, the more the beauty.  So, We Shall Rise…

Despite the corruption in every nook and cranny, despite the tardiness in the official governmental procedures, despite the pain, the horror, the homelessness, the destruction, we find harmony in the oneness of our sun, our moon, our air, our cedars, our land.  And, We Shall Rise…

While the bread loaves are in the process of being baked, waiting to leave the furnace, the blue flames at the base emit their white flames right above that play their musical notes in tune with life’s symphony, in the kiln of Being, in preparation for the nourishment.  Amidst the furnace of despair and rubble, beauty and life are in sync with the universe’s creation that brings about nutriment for the here, the now and the there, the new tomorrow.  We Shall Rise…

Suha Naimy.

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